- IN a large bowl, using a fork, stir flour with spices and baking soda. In a medium bowl, using a wooden spoon, beat butter with sugar for 2 min. Beat in egg, then molasses. Make a well in centre of flour mixture, then pour in molasses mixture. Stir until most of molasses is absorbed. Gently knead until dough is an even colour. Divide into 4 portions.
- SHAPE each into a ball, then flatten slightly into a disc . Wrap separately with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 30 min or up to a week. Or overwrap with foil and freeze up to 1 month.
- WHEN ready to bake, remove dough from refrigerator. Let stand at room temperature until soft enough to roll, 5 to 10 min. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly spray or oil a baking sheet. Place a disc of dough between 2 sheets of waxed paper. Roll dough no thicker than 1/4 in. Cut out shapes with cookie cutter. Place on baking sheet about 1 in. apart.
- BAKE in centre of preheated oven just until edges begin to darken, 7 to 10 min. Remove cookies to a rack to cool. Repeat with remaining dough. Store in an airtight container in a cool place up to 1 week or freeze up to 1 month.
Snowball crackle cookie: Prepare dough. Roll 1 tbsp dough into a 1-in. ball. Place on a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. Refrigerate until cold, about 15 min. Roll cold balls in 1/4 cup sugar in a small bowl, then in 1/4 cup icing sugar in another bowl. Return to oiled baking sheet, placing 1 in. apart. Bake until tops are firm and cracked, 12 to 14 min. Makes 35.
Chocolate crackle cookie: Stir 1/2 cup cocoa into flour mixture. Prepare dough. Roll 1 heaping tsp into a 1/2-in. ball. Place on a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. Refrigerate until cold, about 15 min. Place 1/4 cup sugar in a small bowl. In another small bowl, stir 1/4 cup icing sugar with 1 tbsp cocoa. Roll cold balls in granulated sugar, then in cocoa mixture. Return to oiled baking sheet, placing 1 in. apart. Bake until tops of cookies are firm, 7 to 9 min. Makes 70.
Espresso cookie: Stir 1 tbsp instant-espresso powder into flour mixture along with spices but omit allspice. Continue as in main recipe. Cut out 2-in. rounds with a scalloped cookie cutter. Top each with a chocolate-covered espresso bean or almond. Bake until edges begin to darken, 7 to 10 min. Makes 52.
Honey-pecan cookie: Stir 2 tbsp finely chopped pecans into flour mixture. In place of molasses, add 1/4 cup honey. Continue as in main recipe. With a cookie cutter, cut out shapes. Top each with a pecan. Bake until edges start to darken, 7 to 10 min. Makes 60.