This Ginger Shortbread, perfect for the holiday season, is a variation of our Basic Shortbread Wedges.
Butter an 8 1/2-inch cake or springform pan; set aside. Sift together flour and salt into a small bowl; set aside. Place butter in bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Cream until fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add sugar, and continue to beat until very light in color and fluffy, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, about 2 minutes more. Add vanilla, if using. Add flour mixture, and combine on low speed, scraping with spatula if necessary, until flour is just incorporated and dough sticks together when squeezed with fingers.
Pat dough into prepared pan. If rolling out dough to cut into shapes, form into a flat disk; wrap in plastic. Chill until firm, at least 1 hour.
Sift 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, a pinch of ground cloves, and a pinch of pepper with flour and salt. Roll dough on lightly floured surface to 1/2 inch thick. Cut out gingerbread men using a 3-inch cutter; sprinkle with crystal sugar; chill.
Heat oven to 325 degrees. Bake until firm, about 30 minutes.