There are many foods that I love, not surprising given my passion for cooking, but there are a few that really thrill me. One of those is gingerbread. Deep, dark, moist, spicy, good all on its own or with a glaze, if I see it in a bakery or on a menu, I have to order it. Not want to, but HAVE to order it. I can’t help myself. Unfortunately, most times I am disappointed, but I still buy it every chance I can.
A couple of years ago, when deciding what I wanted to enter in our local county fair, I decided to give gingerbread a try. I have tried many recipes over the years, but none gave me the texture and flavor I crave. There is nothing like a baking contest to get me fired up about finding or creating the best recipe. That’s my competitive streak. I just love winning blue ribbons!
So a few weeks of pouring over recipes, reading up on the history of gingerbread, understanding what gives it the spiciness I love, and I was ready to put a recipe together. Several tries later and I had something that was really close. A few more tweaks and I had it. Don’t be alarmed at the amounts of spices and the inclusion of black pepper. They really do balance each other!
Some of you may not have heard of Lyle’s Golden Syrup. It has a delicate butterscotch flavor and it allows the other flavors to shine through. It is a byproduct of refining sugar cane and you can use it in place of corn syrup, maple syrup, or honey. A company that follows fair trade practices and has a low carbon footprint, Lyles has created a product to be proud of.
There are several types of molasses available in the market and using one over another can drastically change the flavor of your baked goods. Unsulphured molasses is the highest quality, made from sun-ripened sugar cane and is from the first boiling in sugar processing. Sulphured molasses is made from unripe sugar cane, treated with sulphur fumes, and is from the second boiling. It has a darker color and stronger flavor. The strongest form is called Blackstrap and is the most bitter. Whenever a recipe calls for a specific type of molasses, the balance will be off if you use a different kind.
This is not a timid gingerbread. It is bold and audacious. If you are thinking that this will be similar to gingerbread cookies from your childhood, hang onto your hat! This is hot and spicy, with flavors that linger on your tongue. This is the kind of dessert that has you dreaming about having another piece, even when you can’t eat another bite. Perfect for the holidays or any time of the year, gingerbread should be part of every baker’s repertoire.
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
Use the finest size of grater and set it horizontally over a small bowl, resting on both sides of the bowl. This stabilizes the grater and makes it easy to exert pressure when grating. Grate the ingredient (in this case peeled ginger) into the bowl, scraping the underside of the grater occasionally. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap if you are holding this for longer than about 15 minutes.
Kitchen Skill: How to Peel Ginger
You can use a vegetable peeler to peel fresh ginger, but I prefer to use a regular spoon. It is just sharp enough to easily scrape away the peel, but won’t harm you if it slips on the bumpy surface. I like to use a sharp knife and trim away any large lumps, creating as flat a surface as possible to work with. Then just clean up the exterior and you are ready to grate it! Also, store fresh ginger in the freezer where it lasts a really long time so you’ll always have fresh ginger on hand for this wonderful gingerbread!
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup water
- 3/4 cup mild unsulphured molasses (not Blackstrap)
- 3/4 cup flavorful honey or Lyle’s Golden Syrup
- 1 cup tightly packed dark brown sugar
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2-1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp allspice
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup low fat milk (2%)
- 2 packed tbsp peeled and grated fresh ginger
- Lightly sweetened whipped cream, optional
- Combine the butter, water, molasses, honey and brown sugar in a medium saucepan over low heat. Stir frequently until the butter is melted and the ingredients are smoothly incorporated. Remove from the heat, pour into a large aluminum* bowl and set aside to cool to lukewarm. (To cool more quickly place aluminum bowl into a larger bowl partially filled with cool water.)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a bundt pan; set aside.
- In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, allspice and cloves.
- When the molasses mixture has cooled to lukewarm, add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the milk and stir to combine. Fold the dry ingredients into the batter in four additions. Stir in the grated ginger.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the center of the oven for about 1 to 1-1/4 hours, or until the top of the cake springs back when touched and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. If the top is browning too quickly, tent with a piece of foil. Cool for 20 minutes in the pan set on a wire rack, then invert onto the wire rack and cool completely.
- It will hold about one week wrapped tightly in plastic in the refrigerator. Return to room temperature before serving. Serve with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream if desired.
- Yield: 10 to 12 servings
- * Bowls made from aluminum cool more quickly than other materials.