1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup molasses (not black strap)
1 large egg
5 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Place the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves in a large bowl and beat on medium speed until no more streaks of butter remain. Beat in the molasses and egg until fully incorporated.
3. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. On low speed, gradually beat in the flour mixture until just barely incorporated. Don't over mix. The dough should be soft and easy to work with.
4. Place dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour or as long as overnight.
5. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
6. Sprinkle a work surface lightly with flour. Unwrap dough and cut in three sections. Keep one section out and put the remaining two back in the refrigerator until you're ready to work with them. Sprinkle the dough and a rolling pin with a little more flour. Roll out the dough to 1/4- to 1/8-inch thick. Cut out as many cookies as will fit and transfer the cut-out cookies to the baking sheet. Continue rolling and cutting the cookies until both cookie sheets are full.
7. Bake, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until the cookies feel firm at the edges, are puffed in the middle, about 8 to 10 minutes. Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to wire cooling racks to cool completely. Continue rolling, cutting, and baking the remaining cookie dough; scraps can be re-rolled several times, but make sure the baking sheets are completely cooled between batches.
8. When ready to frost, stir together the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla extract to form a smooth icing. It should be thick but pourable, and a ribbon drizzled over the top of the icing should hold for a few seconds before melting. Transfer the icing to squeeze bottles using a funnel. If the icing seems too thick to flow, stir in water, 1 teaspoon at at time, to thin it. Be careful not to add too much liquid, or the icing won't hold on the cookie.
9. Decorate the gingerbread cookies. Let the icing dry for several hours. Once dry, the cookies can be stacked between sheets of parchment in an airtight container and kept at room temperature.