PREHEAT oven to 350° F. Transfer sheets to lightly floured cutting board.
CUT out the following paper patterns for the gingerbread house template:
TWO rectangles, 2 1/4 by 3 inches to make the roof; two squares, 3 by 3 inches for the sides of the house and two rectangles for the front and back of the house, 3 inches wide at the base, 3 inches to the roof line, and slanted to a peak 4 1/4 inches from the bottom.
PLACE each pattern piece on the dough and cut out with a knife around each pattern. Transfer pieces to baking sheet with a large spatula placing about 2-inches apart. If dough pieces stretch during the transfer process, push them back into shape.
BAKE for 8 to 9 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Smaller pieces will bake faster than large pieces. Cool on baking sheets for 4 minutes; remove pieces to wire rack to cool completely.
PREPARE Royal Icing.
TRANSFER icing to a plastic food storage bag; seal. Cut small corner from the bag. If using a pastry bag, place icing into the bag already fitted with metal tip.
ASSEMBLE house(s) on base selected. For each house, pipe a thick line of icing along side of one of the front and back pieces. Press the side piece against the edge of the front and back piece. Hold in place for a few minutes until icing is partially set. Prop up with can if necessary. Repeat with the other front and back piece and sidepiece. Pipe additional icing to fill in any gaps and to add extra stability. To adhere houses to a base, pipe icing along the bottom edges of the houses where it meets the base. Let houses stand for an hour before adhering the roof pieces.
REMOVE cans. Pipe icing along one side of top edges of a house. Place roof piece on. Repeat on other side of house and with remaining roof pieces and house. Smaller cans can be used on the sides of the houses to rest roof pieces onto while drying. Let houses stand for at least an hour or more before decorating.
ATTACH candies, morsels, and decorations of your choice to house with remaining icing. Pipe icing on the sides of the houses to make decorative designs, windows or doors. Sprinkle wet icing with sugars to create extra “sparkle”.
TO SET THE VILLAGE IN A SNOWY SETTING, set houses in mounds of granulated sugar or spoon sugar around base of houses. Houses can also be placed on top of gathered white fabric.
FOR ROYAL ICING:
COMBINE 4 cups (1 lb. box) sifted powder sugar, 5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon warm water and 3 tablespoons meringue powder (available in baking aisle or at cook’s stores) in large mixer bowl; beat for 5 minutes or until stiff peaks form. Icing can be made ahead of time, covered with damp towel and refrigerated. Makes about 1 3/4 cups.