Here's the perfect holiday cookie recipe for cut-outs and decorating. The balanced blend of warm spices and molasses adds just the right amount of seasonal flavor. A combination of butter and shortening creates a dough that rolls out easily and holds it shape during baking.
For the cookies: Whisk together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, allspice and cloves in a large bowl.
Mix the butter, shortening, brown sugar and molasses in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat in the egg. Beat the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients in two additions. Divide the dough in half, wrap in plastic and pat to 1/2-inch thick. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out one piece of dough to 1/4-inch thick, dusting with flour if needed. Cut into 3- to 5-inch cookies with a gingerbread man cutter or desired shape. Brush off the excess flour and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Repeat with the second piece of dough.
Bake the cookies in batches until they are golden around the edges, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.
For the royal icing: Whisk the confectioners' sugar with the meringue powder in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat in 6 tablespoons of water until well combined and you have stiff glossy peaks, adding 1 tablespoon more water at a time to reach a smooth pipeable consistency. Mix in food coloring as desired. Fill pastry bags fitted with tips. Decorate the gingerbread cookies with the icing.
When measuring flour, we spoon it into a dry measuring cup and level off excess. (Scooping directly from the bag compacts the flour, resulting in dry baked goods.)