It's that time of the year again. December is almost here, christmas is only 26 sleeps away and it is time to get all cosy and whip out those hot cocoa's. If you are like me, a person who doesn't have a good day until there is chocolate involved, the holiday season is time to really step up your hot chocolate game.

You could spice things up or spike your cocoa's with booze but you could also do a cute and PG13 version by making these little gingerbread houses to go on the rims of your cups.
These gingerbread houses are made of gingerbread that is tasty and not dry to the bone, an actual treat to eat. This might mean they are not really suited to be made into big architectural structures, but they're great for small buildings and as a gingerbread man in it's humble being.

The addition of royal icing makes them even more wintery, so go ahead and get your icing vibe on. Over here in Holland we hardly don't get any snow (thank you global warming) so just pretend and make them extra snowy with details of royal icing or icing sugar.

For these houses I used a little house cookie cutter set I got at a local store, called Dille & Kamille, but there are many, many templates out there on the world wide web. Just make sure they are not too big, so they fit nicely onto your hot cocoa cup.

How would you spice up your hot cocoa?

- 350 grams all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
- 4 grams baking soda
- 6 grams gingerbread spice
- pinch of salt
- 175 grams dark muscovado sugar
- 125 grams room temperature butter
- 62 grams golden syrup (I used Lyle's golden syrup)
- 1 large free range egg

Sift together the flour, baking soda, gingerbread spice and salt. Place in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and add butter. Mix until you get a crumbly, sandy substance. (This can also be achieved by hand by rubbing the dry ingredients with the butter until it is crumbly. Add the sugar and stir together on the lowest setting. Meanwhile, lightly beat the egg with the golden syrup and add to the mixer. Beat slightly until the mixture clumps together. Tip the batter out of the mixer bowl onto a work surface and kneed briefly until it all sticks together and you get a nice dough. Wrap in clingfilm and put it in the fridge for a minimum of 15 minutes, but preferably 30 minutes. The dough can be easy made up to a night in advance.

While the dough is chilling in the fridge, preheat your oven to 180℃ or 350℉ and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface until it is about 0,5 cm thick and cut it into any desired shape. Place them onto your baking sheet, with some space in between each cookie and bake for about 8 to 9 minutes. This gingerbread has a slightly darker colour thanks to the muscovado sugar, so it's harder to spot if they bake too long! Let them cool for about 5 minutes on the sheet before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

When completely cool, get your masonry hat on and start putting together your houses with the royal icing (recipe stated below). The finished houses are at their best eaten the same day, but they keep for about a week stored in an airtight container.

Sturdy Royal icing to keep the house upright
- 28 grams egg white
- 340 grams icing sugar
- 5 ml water (more if de royal icing is too thick to work with)

Place the egg white into the bowl of a standmixer with paddle attachment and add half of the sugar. Mix on low speed until the sugar is fully combined. Add the other half of the sugar and beat for about 3 minutes on medium speed until it is stiff and the sugar is fully dissolved. Use immediately. If the mixture is too stiff, dilute it with water, one drop at a time until the desired consistency. Cover with clingfilm when not in use, this stuf dries really fast! The royal icing can be colored if desired and can be kept at room temperature for about a day.

Note: this recipe is best made with a stand mixer, since i have officially killed two handheld mixers whilst making this sturdy icing. So proceed with caution if making this with a handheld mixer. Maybe some sweet talk and kind whispers will help to prevent your handheld baby going to mixer heaven when making royal icing.

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