1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, pepper and salt. In a separate bowl, beat butter and brown sugar 2 minutes, until fluffy. Beat in egg and molasses until just combined. Add flour mixture and beat until just combined. Divide dough in half and shape into disks; wrap tightly in plastic. Refrigerate 2 hours.
2. Heat oven to 350 degrees . Remove one dough disk from refrigerator. Generously flour work surface. Roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into gingerbread men and women with 3-inch cookie cutters. Place on baking sheets 2 inches apart. Use pastry brush to remove flour from cookies, if desired. Refrigerate 15 minutes. Repeat with second dough disk.
3. Bake at 350 degrees in batches until golden brown, about 14 minutes. Cool on wire racks, then decorate, if desired.