In a bowl, whisk the flour with the ginger, cinnamon, salt, cloves, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg and cardamom. In a large bowl, beat the butter with the brown sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, molasses and vanilla until thoroughly blended, then beat in the dry ingredients at low speed. Pat the gingerbread dough into 2 disks, wrap them in plastic and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll out 1 disk of dough 1/8-inch thick. Using a 4-inch cookie cutter, stamp out cookies as close together as possible, then transfer them to the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining disk of dough. Gather all the dough scraps, stacking them in a pile, and refrigerate.
Bake the cookies until slightly puffed and very lightly browned on the bottom, 12 to 13 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool completely. Reroll the scraps, then stamp out and bake the remaining cookies. Decorate the cookies with Royal Icing and let dry until set.
To keep brown sugar soft, store it in a sealed plastic bag within an airtight container. To soften hardened brown sugar, sprinkle it with a little water and heat it on a baking sheet in a 200° oven for about 5 minutes.
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