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Making the Dough

Cream together until fluffy:

   - 1 1/2 sticks butter

   - 1 1/2 brown sugar

Beat in until well combined:

   - 2 eggs

   - 1 cup molasses

   - 1 Tbsp water

Whisk together the dry ingredients:

   - 6 cups flour

   - 1/2 tsp baking powder

   - 4 tsp ground ginger

   - 4 tsp ground cinnamon

   - 1/2 tsp ground cloves or allspice

   - 1/2 tsp salt

Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture a little at a time until well blended. Add a little more flour if the dough is too soft. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours (or overnight).

Prepare any pattern pieces before rolling out and cutting the dough. Cardboard can be useful as both a model and pattern.

Baking the Dough

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Divide the dough into at least 2 parts. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface until it's an even 1/4 inch. Add flour as needed to prevent sticking and/or cool if it becomes too soft. Use a little bit of flour on top of the dough if using pattern pieces. Cut out the dough with a knife, wiping the knife's surface clean often. Move the cut out pieces to a parchment-lined cookie sheet, keeping them at least an inch apart from each other. Try to have similar sized pieces grouped to bake together.

Bake for 6-15 minutes - depending on the size of the pieces. Rotate the pieces half way through the baking and remove from the oven when the edges are just beginning to darken. Put the sheets on racks to cool for about 15 minutes. When cool enough to touch, trim pieces as needed and put them directly on the racks.

Making the Icing

Whisk together:

   - 2 egg whites

   - 1 1/3 cups powdered sugar

Add and beat until the icing holds stiff peaks:

   - an additional 1 1/3 cups powdered sugar

   - more powdered sugar, if needed

Keep a damp towl over the prepared icing to keep it from drying out. To use, put some icing in a ziploc bag and cut off a small tip of a corner of the bag.

Decorating tips:

 - Line the base with foil or wax paper.

 - After applying icing and putting pieces together, hold in place for a few minutes until the icing is partially set. For the strongest structures, wait at least an hour before adding a roof or other upper layer.

 - Fix breaks with icing, later covering cracks with decoration.

 - It is good to wait several hours for the icing to set before decorating.

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