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This is the gingerbread recipe I’ve been making since I can’t even remember when, probably college or just after.  Its origin is in a long-gone December issue of Vegetarian Times, but I’ve made so many changes along the way that at this point I think it’s fair to call it mine.

Although there are a lot of spices, the quantities are such that these are just nicely spicy instead of obnoxious.  The addition of the orange zest and ground almonds further mellows things out and sets them a step above your average gingerbread people.

The dough is supple and easy to roll and decorate, if you’re so inclined, but it makes perfectly good plain slice-and-bake cookies as well.  It also freezes beautifully and makes a ton, so if you’d like to stockpile for later use, it’s a great choice.

The recipe below, like the shortbread, is doubled because I needed enough cookies to send to everyone and their grandmother.  Halving it will make a much more manageable but still highly generous quantity.

Spiced Gingerbread Cookies
Makes 8 dozen

1/2 cup honey
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
1 cup molasses (mild or strong, but not blackstrap)
4 cups unbleached white flour
1/2 cup finely ground almonds
4 teaspoons grated orange zest
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon each mace and nutmeg, or 1 teaspoon of either
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

In a small saucepan, combine honey, butter and molasses. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and cool for several minutes.

Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in honey mixture until thoroughly incorporated.

Divide dough into four equal parts.  For slice-and-bake cookies, roll each part into a log and tightly wrap in plastic.  If you prefer to roll and cut shapes, pat each part into a disk before wrapping. Refrigerate 2-3 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

If slicing, cut each log in 1/8 inch slices and transfer to sheets, spacing 1 1/2 inches apart.  If rolling out, roll on a lightly flour surface to 1/8 inch, and cut with cookie cutters.  If necessary, re-chill rolled dough to preserve integrity of the shapes.

Bake for 5 minutes, or until firm.  Cool completely on racks before decorating or eating plain.

Notes:

The spices can be varied as you like.  For example, if you’re not a cardamom fan, leave it out and increase the cinnamon or ginger.  If you prefer a deeper note, substitute cloves for the cardamom or allspice.

How crisp these are depend on how thick you make them and how long you bake them.  If you slice or roll thickly and remove them while they’re still soft to the touch, they will be soft and cakey.  if you prefer them really crisp, make them flatter and remove only once they’re really firming up.  For maximum crunch, let them cool completely on the sheet.

The original recipe, way back in the darkness of time, was vegan, and could easily be again if you’re OK with honey.  Just substitute vegan margarine for the butter, and you’re off.  It might be possible to swap agave nectar or brown sugar for the honey, but I haven’t tried it.

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