Gingerbread Men

Adapted via FoodNetwork
Serves: 20 to 25 (yields about 3 dozen 3-inch cookies)

♦ 3 cups all-purpose flour
♦ 1 tsp baking soda
♦ 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
♦ 3/4 tsp ground ginger
♦ 1/2 tsp ground allspice
♦ 1/2 tsp ground cloves
♦ 1/2 tsp salt
♦ 1/4 tsp freshly milled black pepper
♦ 8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
♦ 1/4 cup vegetable shortening, at room temperature
♦ 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
♦ 2/3 cup unsulfured molasses
♦ 1 large egg

Position the racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, salt and pepper through a wire sieve into a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl, using a hand-held electric mixer at high speed, beat the butter and vegetable shortening until well-combined, about 1 minute. Next add the brown sugar and beat until the mixture is light in texture and color, about 2 minutes. Beat in the molasses and egg. Using a sturdy spoon or spatula, add the flour mixture in batches to make a stiff dough. Divide the dough into two thick disks and wrap each disk in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until chilled, about 3 hours. (The dough can be prepared up to 2 days ahead, refrigerated)

To roll out the cookies, work with one disk at a time, keeping the other disk refrigerated. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature until just warm enough to roll out without cracking, about 10 minutes. (If the dough has been chilled for longer than 3 hours, it may need a few more minutes.) Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and sprinkle the top of the dough with flour. Roll out the dough 1/8 inch thick, being sure that the dough isn’t sticking to the work surface (run a long meal spatula or knife under the dough occasionally just to be sure, and dust the surface with more flour, if needed). For softer cookies, roll out slightly thicker. Using cookie cutters, cut out the cookies and transfer to nonstick cookie sheets, placing the cookies 1 inch apart. Gently knead the scraps together and form into another disk. Wrap and chill for 5 minutes before rolling out again to cut out more cookies.

Bake, switching the positions of the cookies from top to bottom and back to front halfway through baking, until the edges of the cookies are set and crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on the sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to wire cake racks to cool completely. Decorate with icing or frosting of choice. (The cookies can be prepared up to 1 week ahead, stored in airtight containers at room temperature.)

Rolling Tip – roll the dough onto sheets of parchment that are precut to fit your baking pan. That way, you can simply leave the cut shapes in place without fear of needing to lift them and risk tearing the dough in order to place them into the pan; you can simply lift the whole sheet of parchment and set it into the pan as is!

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