3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
12 Tbsp unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 12 pieces and softened slightly
3/4 cup unsulphured molasses
2 Tbsp milk
To the bowl of a food processor, add the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt, and baking soda. Run for about 20 seconds, until well combined, then give a few 3 second pulses. Add the chunks of butter and process for another 20 seconds, until it starts to resemble sand. Turn the processor on and stream in the molasses and milk. Process for 1 minute or until it starts to form a dough ball.
Turn the dough ball out onto a floured surface. Knead a few times with your hands to make sure it all sticks together. Divide the dough into 2 and roll each half between 2 pieces of parchment paper, until 1/4 inch thick. Stack the dough and place in the freezer for 20 minutes or the fridge for at least 2 hours (up to overnight) until the dough is very firm.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Remove the dough from the fridge or freezer and gently loosen the parchment paper on both sides of the dough. Remove the top piece of parchment paper and cut with cookie cutters. Place the cut cookies 1-inch apart on a a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (use the top piece that you removed to be less wasteful!). Bake for 8-10 minutes or until you can barely see a finger print when you gently touch the tops of a cookie. Allow to cool for 2 minutes then move to a wire rack.
Decorate with icing of your choice. Royal icing is a great choice if you want the design to last and harden. Buttercream or cream cheese are great for taste, but don’t stack well. It’s up to you!
Source: Cooks Illustrated, November/December Issue, 1999