for decoration, use dragées, Christmas candies, coarse sugar, candy sprinkles and/or royal icing (see note)
Place brown sugar and shortening in bowl of stand mixer; beat together. Beat in molasses and 1/2 cup (125 mL) water. Set aside. In another large bowl, mix together the 4 cups (1 L) flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg. Using stand mixer, gradually beat dry ingredients into molasses mixture until dough forms.
Turn dough onto lightly floured work surface. Divide in half and shape into 2 discs. Wrap and chill 1 hr. (Note: This dough can be stored in fridge several days or frozen and thawed in fridge overnight.)
Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). With floured rolling pin, on floured surface, roll out 1 dough disc to 1/4-in. (5-mm) thickness. Dip holiday-themed cookie-cutters in flour and cut out shapes. Re-roll dough scraps to make more cut-outs. Place 3 in. (8 cm) apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Dragées (silver-coloured decorative balls used in baking), Christmas candies, coarse sugar and/or candy sprinkles can be pressed onto the dough for decoration before baking.
Bake cookies, one sheet at a time, 12 to 13 min., until firm; cool on rack. Roll, bake and decorate second disc of dough .(Note: Avoid placing dough cut-outs on warm or hot baking sheets.) After cookies are cooled, they can be decorated with royal icing. (Note: To make royal icing, gradually mix 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) sifted icing sugar into 1 egg white until smooth. Pipe icing onto cookies and allow to harden.)
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