Beat butter and sugar at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until fluffy.
Stir together baking soda and 1/4 cup hot water until dissolved; stir in molasses.
Stir together flour and next 4 ingredients. Add to butter mixture alternately with molasses mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Shape mixture into a ball; cover and chill 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350°. Roll dough to 1/4-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut dough with a 4-inch gingerbread man-shaped cookie cutter. Place 2 inches apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets.
Bake at 350° for 15 to 18 minutes. Let cool on baking sheets 2 minutes; transfer to wire racks. Cool completely (about 30 minutes).
Spoon Royal Icing into a small zip-top plastic freezer bag. Snip 1 corner of bag to make a small hole; pipe faces on cookies, or spread cookies with Buttermilk Frosting. Decorate cookies as desired with candies and sugar crystals.
Gingerbread Snowflake Cookies: Prepare recipe as directed, cutting dough with a 1- to 2 1/2-inch snowflake-shaped cutter. Place 2 inches apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 13 to 17 minutes. Cool and decorate as directed. Makes: about 9 dozen. Hands-on time: 1 hr.; Total time: 4 hr., 50 min., including icing and frosting.
Wow, what a terrible mess. Literally. I looked at several different recipes before picking this one, and thought it was odd that you mix the molasses in with the water and baking soda as I did not find this step in any other recipes. It was like a high school chemistry experiment. The mixture grew and grew and grew. Huge mess! I carried on to finish the recipe and was disappointed with the results. Brick hard cookies--even when lowering baking time-- and just a "meh" flavor. I was making these as Xmas gifts but abandoned it before I finished baking all the dough and went for another recipe instead.
I followed the recipe exactly and they turned out perfect. Delicious flavor and they hold up well to icing. I made these for a friend, and they were a big hit! I will definitely be making these again next Christmas.
These cookies were delicious not too sweet and not too spicy. I rolled them out between two sheets of parchment paper and had no problem with stickiness. I decorated them using only the Royal Icing and they looked good enough to gift, even sell. This one is a keeper.