I hate fussy rolling-pin cookies. This may stem in part from the fact that my default cookies are Toll House chocolate chips. Any final step that’s more complex than “drop by teaspoonsful onto cookie sheets” is fighting an uphill battle. But if one is going to go to the trouble to roll out cookies, those cookies should be not too greasy, not too sticky, nice and tasty.

These fit the bill.

Spicy, very dark and with a determined snap, these gingerbread cookies have a grown-up twist: A touch of orange. I found that the skin of a good-sized clementine yields just about the right amount of grated rind.

The dough will be soft, startlingly so, before you chill it. Once you take it out of the fridge, it’s easier to work with hockey-puck sized pieces, rolling them out and cutting them, rather than plopping the whole chunk on the counter and wrestling it flat. You can gather up the dough bits once and reshape them. Any trimmings left from that second roll-out, find another use: Dough handled that much is too tough to make a good cookie.

This is — once again — adapted from Peter Pauper Press’s “Holiday Cookies.” (That’s where Grammy found her almond crescents, which became the stuff of family legend.) The old directions simply say “cut into boy-shapes” — which is such a great line, I’ll leave you with it.

Gingerbread Boys

Makes about 3-5 dozen cookies, depending on your cut-out size

  • 1-1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup blackstrap molasses
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind

Mix flour, baking soda and ginger in a large bowl. Place molasses and butter in small saucepan; heat gently, stirring to melt butter and blend with molasses. (You can do this in the microwave as well: Place molasses and butter in a microwave-proof bowl or measuring cup, and heat, watching carefully, until butter melts. Remove container from microwave and stir well.) Cool slightly; add to flour mixture and stir. Add orange rind and mix well. Dough will be very soft.

Chill thoroughly, at least two hours and up to two days.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Sprinkle flour on your rolling surface and rolling pin. Either butter a baking sheet or put parchment on it.

Remove dough from refrigerator, and break off a hockey-puck sized piece. Warm and flatten gently between your palms; when pliable, roll out to 1/8-inch thickness, using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking. Cut into your favorite shapes. Place on parchment-covered cookie sheet, 1/2 inch apart. Bake 8-10 minutes. Cool on sheet or racks.

Recipe and photo copyright 2009 Garside Group LLC