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Gingerbread House Dough

This is a thick, heavy dough that needs to be made in a mixer. It's also a large quantity of dough, so you might want to make it in two batches.

    7 cups all-purpose flour
    4 teaspoons ginger
    4 teaspoons cinnamon
    1 teaspoon allspice
    1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
    1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    1 1/2 cups solid vegetable shortening or unsalted butter
    1 cup (packed) brown sugar
    2 large eggs
    1 1/2 cups molasses (not blackstrap)

Whisk together the flour, spices, baking soda and baking powder.

Working in a mixer with the paddle attachment, if you have one, beat the shortening or butter at medium speed until it's light and fluffy. Add the brown sugar and beat to blend. Beat in the eggs one by one, and then beat in the molasses. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually stir in the flour mixture.

Divide the dough in thirds, wrap in plastic and chill for 3 hours.

Center a rack in the oven, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

The dough is soft and needs to be rolled between sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap. Roll to a scant 1/4-inch thickness. Remove one sheet of wax paper or plastic and turn the dough over onto a sheet of parchment paper.

To cut the pieces, lay a piece of plastic wrap over the portion of the dough to be cut, put the template over the plastic and score with a pizza cutter — don't cut all the way through. Lift off the plastic and run the cutter over the lines you've scored. Remove the dough between the pieces and save the scraps because you can re-roll them for the gingerbread house or for cookies. (If you're having problems removing the dough from between the cutouts, chill the dough in the fridge or freezer for a little while, then try again.)

Carefully slide the parchment and dough onto a rimless cookie sheet. Bake the gingerbread for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the pieces are dry and firm. Cool for 10 minutes on the cookie sheet, then transfer the pieces to a rack to cool completely.

Continue rolling, cutting and baking the pieces, always making sure to put the dough on a cool cookie sheet.

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