For the cookies
5 cups flour, plus more for rolling and cutting the dough
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup butter-flavored vegetable shortening
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark molasses
2 large eggs
For the royal icing
1 pound confectioners' sugar (about 4 cups), sifted
1/4 cup meringue powder
1/2 cup warm water
1 teaspoon orange extract
Gel or paste food coloring, for decorating (see headnote)
Luster dust, for decorating (see headnote)
For the cookies: Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, ginger, cloves and cinnamon in a large bowl.
Combine the shortening and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer; beat on low speed until well blended, then add the molasses and eggs, beating until well incorporated. Stop to scrape down the bowl.
Gradually add the flour mixture (on low speed) to form a sticky dough. Divide into quarters; shape each one into a flattened disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days.
Line three baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.
Lightly dust each disk of dough with flour and place it between sheets of wax paper. Roll to a thickness of 1/4-inch. Lift off and reserve the top layer of wax paper. Dip the stocking cookie cutter in flour and cut out 8 stocking shapes in the dough, peeling away the excess dough. Use a sharp knife to score U-shaped channels in 4 of the stocking shapes; this will help create the space for holding the cookie pops. (Cut off their loops.) Use the smaller round cutters to create round cookies that will be affixed to sticks. Arrange the stockings and other cutouts on the baking sheets. Freeze for about 15 minutes or until the dough is firm but not frozen.
Position racks in the upper and middle sections of the oven; preheat to 350 degrees.