These little folks have been around for centuries. Gingerbread originated in the Middle Ages, when it was eaten year-round as a delicacy at fairs. On American shores, the spicy-sweet aroma and festive shapes are familiar symbols during winter holidays.
In a medium mixing bowl stir together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and ground cloves; set aside. In a large mixing bowl beat butter for 30 seconds with an electric mixer. Add sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg, molasses, and vanilla; beat until combined. Beat in ginger and as much of the flour mixture as you can with the mixer. Stir in remaining flour with a wooden spoon. Cover; chill dough about 3 hours, or overnight, or until easy to handle.
Preheat oven to 375 degree F. On a lightly floured surface roll dough to about 1/8-inch thickness. Cut dough using 5-inch gingerbread people cookie cutters. Arrange the cutouts about 1 inch apart on a lightly greased cookie sheet.
Bake for 5 to 6 minutes or until edges are firm and bottoms are light brown. Cool cookies on a wire rack. Pipe designs on cookies with tinted Royal Icing. Makes about 25 gingerbread people.
Place in layers separated by waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store piped cookies at room temperature for up to 3 days. Freeze unfrosted cookies for up to 3 months. Thaw, and if desired, pipe with icing.
In a small bowl combine powdered sugar, meringue powder, and cream of tartar. Stir in 1/4 cup warm water. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until combined, then on high speed 7 to 10 minutes or until very stiff. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons additional warm water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until of glazing consistency. To tint, divide the glaze into small portions. Add enough paste food coloring or liquid food coloring to each portion to make desired color.