First off, start three or four days before you need the house. In a pinch, you could do it in two, but if you need it now, buy a kit or make gingerbread men. The gingerbread men will even taste good!
Also, I wrote what we did, but Day 1 and 2 could conceivably be a single day if you weren't doing much else. In practice, Day 1 for us happens a week or more before we build, whenever we start doodling ideas.
In this case, Choclo, Oob, and I were a team, and Oob came up with the idea of a village.
This is a good team idea because different people can do different buildings. We sketched both the birds eye map and the ground level view.
This involves ideas for special features, but mostly it's the time to figure out what parts you need for the building.
This is also the point at which impractical ideas become apparent (e.g. making the Death Star is impractical because large gingerbread spheres are nearly impossible).
A master sheet of all the needed pieces helps a lot! This is when you make paper patterns.
We made our village to scale for gummy bears, which meant our walls were about 3 inches high and 3-4 inches long.
Day 2: Make the gingerbread
Roll out the gingerbread on foil (or parchment), cut out the patterns, then slide a cookie sheet under the foil and bake. If you don't have to transfer the pieces, they won't break.
If you want candy windows, cut out the window space before you bake, bake, then add crushed hard candy to the space and reheat the (baked) gingerbread just until the candy melts (watch it so it doesn't burn). Alternatively, you could make hard candy and pour it into the window spaces, but that can get messy.
Make royal icing, gather the candy, and decorate the walls.
The key here is that you want to decorate the walls before you construct the house!
Trust us, everything will stick better and you will be able to get better detail if you decorate the walls while they are still flat.
Let it dry a few hours, ideally overnight. If you started early, you might save a day here by building the walls at night.
We use a fairly dry royal icing (more powdered sugar but still a little sticky) to connect walls or any other structural support.
On larger projects, we support the walls with jars and cans to keep things square, but the little houses didn't need support.
Let dry at least 6 and preferably 8 hours.
We did walls in the morning and roofs in the evening.
You'll notice our seams aren't very nice. That's OK because these are construction seams. We go over them with pretty piping near the end.
Now we wait overnight for the roofs to dry. This is especially important if you built the walls and roof on the same day.
Day 4: Add shingles, royal icing to cover the base, and fancy piping to the seams.
In fact, now is the time to fancy everything up!
You can add lots of cute gum drops and funny details. You can make shrubs out of rice crispy treats, and/or trees out of ice cream cones. Marshmallows make great snowmen. You can melt or make hard candy to make ice or water. It's these fun details that make a good house great!
We'll show you how our village turned out tomorrow!