I feel ornery like Granny, here, letting you in on old family secrets, except that these secrets are only about 3 weeks old, and they're not secrets at all, unless you consider the Internet as a keeper of secrets.
While this recipe would not hurt you if you ate it, it's really designed for making strong structures rather than cookies. So look for another recipe for eating. This one is for she-man house constructors, like you and me. (Stop saying, "I can't!" because as my daughter's ballet teacher used to say, "Can't never could." Now go figure out that strange saying and stop whining.)
1/2 c. butter (Not margarine because it doesn't harden back up as well.)
1/2 c. white sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 c. dark molasses
3 c. flour (or 4)
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. cloves (I did not add this.)
1 t. cinnamon
4 t. ginger
1 t. salt
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients gradually. You can add a little bit of water (like 1 T.) if you need some help with moisture.
If you have a heavy duty mixer, you can use your dough hook, but I ended up mixing with my hands.
Once it's mixed, you can wrap the dough and refrigerate it for a couple of days. When you get ready to work with it again, let it warm to room temp.
Put down a piece of parchment paper. Put a ball of dough on that sheet. Put another piece of parchment on top of the dough, and roll out to about 1/4 to 1/8" thickness. Try to keep all of your walls the same thickness. If you find that your dough is just too sticky, you can put it back in the bowl and add more flour. I had to do this many times. It's an art, not a science.
You could skip the paper and flour the counter and rolling pin, etc., but I liked the paper best for several reasons:
1. Clean up is easy.
2. After you roll out the dough and cut out windows, etc., you can slide that piece right off the counter onto the cookie sheet--no lifting of dough!
When your dough first comes out of the oven, you can actually cut it some to correct any flaws, because it will be soft for a few minutes.
Bake anywhere from 10-15 minutes. Let them get maybe a little browner than you would a cookie, but don't burn them.
Here is an important part: While your walls are baking, notice how absolutely wonderfully heavenly your kitchen smells. This is the real deal, no gingerbread candle scent for you!
Remove from oven and cool. I usually pulled the paper away when they cooled down a bit, but I let them sit for days on the parchment with no problems at assembly time.
Some of you asked for the icing recipe which I used for the gingerbread extravaganza kick I've been on for the last few weeks. I don't have a secret recipe or anything; you'll find similar ones everywhere, but I can tell you that my favorite site overall for the joyful thing that is called gingerbread can be found here: Gingerbread House Heaven, whom I thank for this recipe, even though they don't know me.
Royal Icing Recipe #1 (The one I use which is like glue when it's dry.)
• 1 pound powdered sugar
• 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
• 3 egg whites
Make sure your bowl and beaters are clean and dry first. Then whip the egg whites until thick and frothy. Add sugar and cream of tartar slowly. I often just use a spoon instead of the mixer at this point to keep the sugar from poofing all over the the kitchen cabinets and me and the dog, who is always right under foot.
Sometimes I add more sugar if I think it's too runny. I'd rather start a little too thick because 1) I can control it better as I "draw" with it. 2) My hand heats up the icing as I pipe, which makes it a little runnier.
You'll probably want to cover what's in the bowl to keep it moist, but if it becomes stiff, add a tiny amount of water and re-mix. Good as new.
Another hint: Load only about 1/4 c. icing into your bag or it will start squeezing out the top no matter how hard you try for that not to happen.
Recipe # 2: For those who don't want to use egg whites due to fear of salmonella, you can use meringue powder:
3 tbsp. meringue powder
1 lb. confectioners' sugar
6 tbsp. warm water (in humidity use less water)
And that's it! Now you're ready to bake some sweet rockin' gingerbread. And don't say "I can't!" because "Can't never could."