2 1/2cflour [+ up to 1/2 cup more for rolling cut-outs]
1/8tspfresh ground black pepper
1/8tspground cayenne pepper
1/2inchcube of gingerminced finely via a microplane - OPTIONAL
2+ c icing sugar [a.k.a. Powdered Sugar]
a few drops of food colouring
~ 1/3 c milk or juice
Whisk all of the dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.
Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer or in a separate, larger mixing bowl.
OPTIONAL: Beat the butter and fresh minced ginger together until smooth.
Beat the [gingered] butter and sugars together until the mixture is light and fluffy.
Add the egg and the molasses to the butter mixture, and beat until combined.
With the mixer on low speed or by hand, add the dry ingredients and mix just until thoroughly dispersed.
Divide the soft dough in two. Transfer each half onto a sheet of plastic wrap and form into a disc.
Refrigerate the dough for at least three hours [for easy circlets] and from 4- 24 hours, or until firm, for cookie cut-outs.
Preheat oven to 350°F [180°C].
Line cookie sheets with silpat or parchment.*
To cut cookies into shapes: Between extremely well-floured sheets of wax or parchment paper, roll the dough to about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thickness. This may take a bit of muscle at first. But, when the dough becomes pliable, it will be quite soft, and you will want to work quickly to cut your shapes. You might prefer to refrigerate or even freeze the sheets of rolled dough on a sheet of parchment on a pan for several minutes before proceeding. You might also wish to work more flour into the dough to make it pliable enough to use your cutters. Then, cut the cookies into shapes. And, place 1/2- to 1-inch apart on lined cookie sheets.
To make easy circlets: Roll the dough into 1-inch balls. Place the balls about 2-inches apart on the lined cookie sheet. Press each ball into a circlet with the bottom of a glass or a flat-bottomed measuring cup.
Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes for cutouts, 9-12 minutes for circlets. The longer the cook-time, the crisper the snap.
Place the pan on a wire rack and cool the cookies on their sheet for 2 minutes.
Transfer the cookies to a wire rack by sliding the whole silpat or sheet of parchment over or by using a good, thin spatula.
Place the icing sugar in a small bowl.
Add the vanilla and food colouring and combine well with a fork or whisk.
By the tablespoonful, add the milk or juice until you've made an icing of your desired consistency. Some folks prefer a thick, full colour icing [less liquid] and some folks prefer a drizzle or glaze [more liquid]. I like an opaque but drizzlable slurry. Just be sure to take your time and incorporate each tablespoonful into the sugar before adding more so that you have "total creative control."
Apply thicker icing with a butter knife or icing spatula. Apply thinner icing by dribbling over cookies with a fork or even pouring from a container with a spout.
Allow the iced cookies to sit for 15-20 minutes or until the sugar has set.
*I like to bake these cookies on parchment so that I can move them easily from pan to cooling rack. Also, this makes icing easy, and cleanup a breeze. [We can recycle the parchment.]