- In a large bowl, using a fork, stir flour with spices and baking soda. In a medium-size bowl, using a wooden spoon, stir butter with sugar until evenly mixed. Beat in egg, then molasses. Make a well in centre of flour mixture, then stir in molasses mixture until most of flour is absorbed. Gently knead to evenly mix.
- Form dough into 4 balls, then flatten each into a disc. Wrap separately in plastic and refrigerate until firm, 30 minutes or up to 5 days. Freeze up to 1 month if making ahead.
- When ready to bake, remove dough from refrigerator. Let stand at room temperature to soften enough for easy rolling, 10 to 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly spray 2 baking sheets. Place a disc of dough between 2 sheets of waxed paper. Roll dough no thicker than 1/4 inch. Cut out shapes with cookie cutter. Place on baking sheets 1 inch apart.
- Bake one sheet at a time in centre of preheated oven until edges begin to darken, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove cookies to a cooling rack. Repeat with remaining dough. Store in a cool place up to 1 week or freeze up to 1 month.
Cracked black pepper & lemon: Stir 1 tbsp finely grated lemon peel and 1 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper into flour mixture in step 1. Continue with recipe as written.
Chocolate gingerbread: Finely chop 3 squares (about 3 oz/90 g) bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate. Knead gently into dough. Roll out and cut into shapes. Bake as directed above.
Chocolate & sugar: Before baking chocolate cookies (above), brush with water, then sprinkle with granulated or coarse sugar. Bake as above.
Ginger-pecan: Gently knead 2/3 cup finely chopped pecans into dough. Roll into 1-inch balls. Arrange on baking sheets. Press a pecan into centre of each. Bake 8 to 12 minutes.
How to roll out cookie dough