These spicy holiday cookies hail from Germany and were traditionally sweetened with honey, but German immigrants in America substituted molasses. They have all the spice of a gingersnap and a texture that's tender and chewy.
Toast the almonds in a medium-size nonstick skillet over medium-high heat for 6 minutes and set them aside.
With an electric mixer set on medium speed, beat together the brown sugar, honey, molasses, egg, and orange zest in a mixing bowl until smooth.
Combine the almonds, raisins, and crystallized ginger, if you're using it (for extra zip), in a food processor. Pulse repeatedly to finely chop the mixture. (You can also finely chop the ingredients by hand.) Stir the nut mixture into the sugar mixture.
Sift the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt into a separate medium-size bowl. Then stir the dry mixture into the liquid a third at a time, stirring well after each addition. The dough will be quite dense and sticky.
Scrape the dough onto a well-floured 3-foot-long sheet of plastic wrap. Generously flour the dough. Then, using floured hands, knead the dough several times to smooth it. Flatten the dough into a 1-inch-thick square and wrap it in the plastic. Slide the dough into a plastic bag or wrap it in aluminum foil and chill it until firm, several hours or overnight.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet (preferably not a dark one) with parchment or lightly greased aluminum foil. Set the sheet aside. Transfer the dough to a generously floured sheet of waxed paper and roll it into a 1/4-inch-thick rectangle or square. Cut the dough into cookies that measure about 2 inches square.
Transfer the squares to the baking sheet, spacing them about an inch apart. Bake the cookies on the center oven rack for 12 to 13 minutes, 1 sheet at a time. When done, the cookies will have formed a crust, but they should still feel soft to the touch. (Tip: The cookies stay chewier if you bake them less and put them in an airtight container while they're still slightly warm. If your family prefers a crisper cookie, just bake them a little longer and let them cool completely before you store them.) Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and, while they are still quite warm, dredge them in confectioners' sugar. When they've cooled completely, dredge them once more. Makes about 18 to 24 cookies.