Classic gingersnaps are full of spices

At about 4 o'clock nothing tastes better on a cool fall day than gingersnaps slightly warm from the oven. There are several variations on the classic recipe: some are thin and crisp, some are soft and chewy, some have more ginger than others.

This is the classic recipe: dark, semi-soft cookies that taste best with a glass of cider. This recipe comes from Maida Heater's ''Book of Great Cookies'' (Knopf, $10).

English Gingersnaps 21/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour 2 teaspoons baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1 teaspoon ginger 1/2 teaspoon cloves 1/4 teaspoon allspice 1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper 6 ounces (11/2 sticks) butter 1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed 1 egg 1/4 cup molasses Granulated sugar, to roll cookies in

Optional, walnuts or pecans, halved, sliced, or coarsely chopped

Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice, and black pepper and set aside.

In large bowl of electric mixer cream butter. Add brown sugar and beat well. Add egg and molasses and beat for a few minutes until mixture is light in color.

On low speed gradually add sifted dry ingredients, scraping bowl with rubber spatula and beating only until incorporated.

Refrigerate dough briefly until it can be handled; 10 to 15 minutes might be enough.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cut aluminum foil to fit cookie sheets. Spread granulated sugar on large piece of wax paper.

Use round tablespoonful of dough for each cookie. Roll dough between hands, then roll in granulated sugar, and place 21/2 inches to 3 inches apart on cookie sheets.

Bake about 13 minutes, reversing cookie sheets top to bottom and front to back if necessary to insure even browning. With wide spatula, transfer cookies to racks to cool. Makes 24 large gingersnaps.

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