Chocolate gingerbread folk are dressed in their best royal icing duds and ready to mingle! Foil-wrapped liqueur-filled chocolates make a cute addition. Find them for purchase at specialty shops and online.
Make the cookies: Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, ground ginger, ground cinnamon, ground cloves, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the softened butter with the shortening at medium speed until the mixture is smooth, about 30 seconds. Add the brown sugar and beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Add the egg to the cookie batter and beat until incorporated. Beat in the molasses and then the melted bittersweet chocolate. Add the flour mixture in 3 batches, beating between additions. Divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Roll each piece out between two large pieces of parchment paper or waxed paper to approximately 1/4 inch thickness. Transfer the rolled dough (still covered between sheets of paper) to a large cookie sheet and chill both pieces in the refrigerator until firm.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Cover two large baking sheets with parchment. Using a 5-inch cookie cutter, cut the dough into gingerbread folk shapes and transfer them to the prepared baking sheets. Reroll the dough scraps and cut out more cookies.
Bake the cookies for about 7-10 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the pans for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Repeat the process with the remaining dough.
Make the royal icing: Place the meringue powder and cold water in a mixing bowl; beat until stiff peaks form. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar. Add the extract and beat until the icing is thick and smooth. Icing can be thinned with water 1 tablespoon at a time if it’s too thick for piping. Transfer the icing to a large piping bag fitted with a plain decorator tip (small size, usually #1 or #2 for writing).
Use the icing to pipe faces, fancy clothes and hairdos onto the cooled cookies (use a stick pin to spread the frosting for fine detail work, such as the gentlemen’s’ mustaches and the ladies’ lips). To adhere the chocolate bottles onto the cookies, place a generous dot of icing on the hand of a gingerbread folk. Press a bottle (wrapped or unwrapped – your choice) into the icing and let stand for 1 hour, or until the icing is dry. Half (about 10) of my gingerbread party folk held ‘drinks’ and the other half just mingled without.