I used this recipe for the actual gingerbread pieces:
6 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
4 tsp ginger
4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1 1/2 sticks of butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup dark molasses
1 T. water
Whisk dry ingredients together in large bowl and set aside. Beat butter and brown sugar until fluffy, then add eggs, molasses and water. Beat half of the flour mixture in and then stir in remaining flour. Knead until well blended. Roll out dough to 1/4 inch thick, adding flour as needed. Bake at 350 for 11-15 minutes for larger pieces or 6-8 minutes for smaller pieces.
A single batch of dough provided enough rectangular pieces for three nativities, plus a few extra. When I made this for the nativities I was out of molasses, so I tried using karo syrup instead. They were delicious. This week I made another batch of dough for gingerbread man cookies - with molasses - and they came out a little more crumbly and strongly flavored. The kids seemed to love both equally. I think I almost prefer the karo syrup substitution!
To make the "glue" to hold the pieces together I used the royal icing recipe...beating 2 egg whites and 2 2/3 cups powdered sugar together until stiff peaks formed.
Now that I have been bold enough to try it once, I have more ideas to try next year. Like actually planning ahead and getting a variety of candies for constructing more imaginative nativity figurines. The kids were pretty pleased with the marshmallow sheep (with the chocolate chip curly horns), but they looked slightly askance when I showed them how they could make marshmallow people. They didn't seem to mind eating them, though.
Clay and I enjoyed the leftover pieces of gingerbread for breakfast the next morning.