This was my first crack at an honest-to-goodness real gingerbread house. It came out very well! Sturdy, easy to make the dough and easy to assemble the house. I would highly recommend drawing a template on paper before you start. I didn't, and wound up with roof pieces that were on the skimpy side since I made them the same size as the wall pieces. Make them a half inch wider so that you get some overhang, and that'll ensure that you don't have any roofline gaps.
Gingerbread for Houses (courtesy of Dorothy G.'s grandma)
1 1/2 cups shortening or vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups molasses
Boil these ingredients together and cool to lukewarm. Then stir in:
In a large mixing bowl, combine the following dry ingredients:
8 cups flour
3/4 t. salt
1 1/2 t. each baking soda, cinnamon, ginger
Pour the sugar mixture into the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until all of the ingredients are well combined and a dough forms. This is a very stiff dough, so unless you have a really awesome mixer with some serious horsepower in the motor, I'd recommend doing it by hand.
Divide dough in half and cover the portion you are not working with so that it doesn't dry out. Roll out the other portion between two sheets of parchment paper to a 1/4" thickness. Remove top piece, slide the dough and bottom piece onto a cookie sheet and cut out the desired pattern. Remove the scraps, but not the windows and doors.
Bake at 375 degrees for 12 minutes, until well done. Immediately out of the oven, recut and remove the windows and doors and straighten any edges. Work quickly since it hardens as it cools.
Once the pieces are fully cooled, melt 2/3 cup of sugar per house in a nonstick skillet over medium heat until all crystals are dissolved. Turn the heat way down and work quickly, dipping the appropriate edges into the sugar and setting the pieces into place. The sugar is VERY hot, so this is definitely an adults only job.
This amount of dough will make two good sized houses (or one mansion).