Gingerbread People

For a thick, chewy gingerbread cookie, follow the instructions and
make sure not to overcook. If you like a crisper gingerbread cookie,
roll these out a bit thinner and bake an extra minute. The crispier
version is best for making ornaments.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 8 minutes; 2 hours cooling time

Yield: Forty-five 3-inch cookies

Ingredients & Directions:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature

3/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup unsulphured molasses

1 large egg

3 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/4 teaspoon salt

Cinnamon Red Hots candies (optional)

Currants (optional)

Cream the butter with a flat paddle attachment in a mixer on high
speed until the butter is soft, about 3 minutes. Beat in the sugar
and continue beating until the sugar is light and fluffy, about 2
minutes. Beat in the molasses. Beat in the egg, scraping down the
bowl once or twice.

Sift together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg,
cloves, and salt. Add the dry ingredients in three batches, mixing
just until each batch is blended. Shape the dough into a large, flat
ball by hand, kneading a few times until it's smooth. Wrap the dough
in plastic wrap and refrigerate it at least 2 hours or until it's
firm enough to roll out.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with
parchment paper and spray lightly with pan coating.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/4-inch
thickness. Cut the dough into shapes as desired. Transfer the cookies
to the cookie sheets, using a spatula. Leave at least 2 inches
between each cookie. Place similar-sized cookies on the same sheet.
To making hanging ornaments, punch holes in the tops of the shapes
with the blunt end of a chopstick.

For decoration, place Red Hots or currants on the gingerbread people
to make eyes, noses, mouth, and buttons.

Bake the cookies for about 12 minutes, depending on their size.
Rotate the cookie sheets once during baking. The cookies should have
just begun to brown around the edges and feel firm to the touch when
you remove them. Cool the pans on racks for a few minutes. Transfer
the cookies to the racks to cool completely. Let the pans cool
completely before proceeding with the next batch of cookies; you may
reuse the parchment. Store the cookies in an airtight container at
room temperature for up to two weeks or freeze for up to one month.