Spicy Gingerbread Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup dark-brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1 cup unsulfured molasses
6 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
4 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
Raisins, dragées, and/or red hot candies for decoration (optional)
Royal Icing for decoration (optional)

In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and molasses. In another bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt. Stir flour mixture into butter mixture. Divide dough into thirds and wrap each third in plastic wrap. Chill for about 1 hour. Preheat oven to 350 F. Roll dough 1/8 inch thick between two pieces of waxed paper. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters. Transfer shapes to ungreased cookie sheets. If desired, decorate with raisins, dragées, and/or red hot candies. Refrigerate about 15 minutes. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until crisp but not dark. Allow to cool on the cookie sheet for 1 minute, then remove to wire racks to cool completely. If desired, decorate with Royal Icing.

Note: If you are going to use the cookies for decorations, make a hole for the cord or hook by poking the cookies with a toothpick or skewer as soon as they come out of the oven. Source: based on a recipe from Martha Stewart. We just toned down the black pepper a little bit. Martha uses 1 teaspoon of black pepper but we found it was a little bit too much for the kids. Some kids, however, really prefer Martha's original, so to each his own! If you'd like to kick it up, add the whole teaspoon of black pepper.

Servings: 16

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