Here's a really easy recipe for gingerbread. However easy it may be, it will still take several hours in total. I've taken a bit from the Swedish and the Canadian traditional recipes.
100 g butter
2 dl brown sugar
2dl dark sirap (no that isn't a typo - for North America, you can use simple syrup or light molasses)
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp baking soda in a small amount of water
17 dl all purpose flour
Melt the butter, sirap, sugar and spices in a saucepan on medium until the butter is melted. Add the milk and let cool. Once cool (about 10 mins) add the baking soda mixture. In a large bowl, combine the flour and the contents of the saucepan. Work mixture into a dough then put in the fridge for 3 hours or so.
Once out of the fridge, let the dough sit out until it is easy enough to roll with a rolling pin (it will always be tough though). Try to get the dough to about 3 - 5mm thickness.
Cut into shapes. Bake at 175 F on middle rack for 8 mins. Let cool entirely. Decorate.
4 dl icing sugar
2 egg whites
2 tsp lemon juice
Mix with hand blender. Add more icing sugar if you find your icing is too runny. It should be rather thick. Add food colouring if desired. For better control of the icing use a piping bag.
A note on gingerbread houses - My intention was to make this post about the most wonderful gingerbread house ever made, with complex shingles for the roof and shutters for the windows. But ... the walls fell in ... and the roof didn't fit despite meticulous measurements. And this was before the aforementioned shingle system was even attempted. If you are a novice or have little patience, save yourself the agony. Go with cookies and have a merrier Christmas baking experience.