I'm not posting this recipe publicly because I really like Cook's Illustrated, and would definitely recommend that people buy the magazine. Luckily, this is my site, and I can lock entries, which allows me to search for them later when I need them. Once a year or so, I have to go rooting through my stash of back issues of Cook's Illustrated to find That Gingerbread Recipe, because now that I've had it, no other will do.
I am snobbish about gingerbread. I know what I want, and usually I can tell just from looking at gingerbread if it's the kind of recipe I enjoy eating. I look for a dark, moist cookie that is redolent of molasses and ginger. It should have a dark, spicy, intoxicating smell. If it doesn't, I decline. I know what I like.
This recipe is from the December 1999 issue of Cook's Illustrated, issue #41, page 25.
Thick and Chewy Gingerbread Cookies
Makes about 20 5-inch gingerpeople or 30 3-inch cookies
Because no flour is added during rolling, you can reroll the scraps as many times as needed. Don't overbake or they will be dry.
3 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1T ground cinnamon
1T ground ginger
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp salt
¾ tsp baking soda
12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened slightly
¾ cup unsulphured molasses
In bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, stir together flour, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt, and baking soda at low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Stop mixer and add butter pieces; mix at medium-low speed until mixture is sandy and resembles fine meal, about 1½ minutes. Reduce speed to low and, with mixer running, gradually add molasses and milk; mix until dough is evenly moistened, abou 20 seconds. Increase speed to medium and mix until thoroughly combined, about 10 seconds.
Scrape dough onto work surface; divide in half. Working with one portion of dough at a time, roll ¼-inch thick between two large sheets of parchment paper. Leaving dough sandwiched between parchment layers, stack on cookie sheet and freeze until firm, 15 to 20 minutes. Alternately, refrigerate dough 2 hours or overnight.
Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Remove one dough sheet from freezer; place on work surface. Peel off top parchment sheet and gently lay it back in place. Flip dough over, peel off and discard parchment layer. Cut dough into 5-inch gingerpeople or 3-inch cookies, transferring shapes to parchment-lined cookie sheets with wide metal spatula, spacing them ¾ inch apart. Set scraps aside. Repeat with remaining dough until cookie sheets are full. Bake cookies until set in centers and dough barely retains imprint when touched very gently with fingertip -- 8 to 11 minutes -- rotating cookie sheets front to back and switching positions top to bottom halfway through baking time. Do not overbake. Cool cookies on sheets 2 minutes, then remove with wide metal spatula to wire rack; cool to room temperature.
Gather scraps; repeat rolling, cutting, and baking. Repeat with remaining dough until all dough is used.