cookie cutters; a pastry bag fitted with a small open tip
For the cookies: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, white pepper, salt, baking soda, nutmeg and cloves. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, brown sugar and barley malt syrup until smooth. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl. Add the egg and continue to mix until completely incorporated. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl again and add the vanilla, fresh ginger and orange zest.
Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in the mixer. Mix until just combined. Then, turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and press into a disk. Cover completely in the plastic wrap and chill for 20 minutes.
Roll the dough out about 1/4 inch thick between 2 pieces of lightly floured parchment paper. Place the rolled out dough onto parchment on a cookie sheet in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Cut the dough with cookie cutters and place onto parchment-lined cookie sheets. You can gather scraps together and reroll the dough 1 additional time.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until just beginning to brown around the edges. Allow the cookies to cool completely before decorating.
For the royal icing: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (see Cook's Note), add the confectioners' sugar and meringue powder and beat to combine. Add 4 tablespoons of warm water and beat to combine. Raise the paddle head to check the consistency of the icing; the icing should be thick and smooth, but not dripping from the paddle. Add more water until the desired consistency is reached. (You can add slightly more water to achieve a flooding consistency to completely cover the cookies; use a stiffer consistency to pipe decorations and details.) Immediately transfer the icing to a pastry bag fitted with a small open tip. Decorate the gingerbread cookies.
Make sure to use a mixer and paddle attachment. This insures that the icing is totally smooth and any clumps of confectioners' sugar are eradicated. Otherwise, as you're piping, the opening of the pastry tip with get clogged. That's a major pain.