Moist, dark, spicy, but not too sweet, this is classic gingerbread. The addition of black pepper has a historical hook: it was a common ingredient in gingerbreads of the past. We think it brings alive the other spices.
Gingerbread was one of the original baby foods. One of Germany's organic baby-food manufacturers evolved from a family of apothecaries. In their seventeenth-century shop, as in other "drugstores" of the time, gingerbread was dried until crisp and ground into a powder to which mothers added water or milk.
Gingerbread was considered a cure-all. It was said to settle stomachs, strengthen livers, and help mental powers — and we couldn't agree more.
- 1 large egg
- 4 ounces cream cheese
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour, organic preferred (measured by dipping and leveling)
- 1 generous teaspoon baking soda
- Generous 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 3/4 cup mild or dark molasses
- 3/4 cup very hot water (190°F)
- 1/3 tightly packed cup dark brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- Whipped cream for serving
1. Before starting the gingerbread, make the cheese mixture. Beat together the egg, cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla. Set aside.
2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour an 8-inch square light-colored metal baking pan.
3. Make the gingerbread. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and black pepper. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, molasses, hot water, and brown sugar. When the mixture is almost frothy, beat in the egg, and gradually add the flour blend. Stir until thoroughly blended, but no more.
4. Pour half of the gingerbread batter into the pan. Drop spoonfuls of the cheese mixture over the batter. Then cover with the remaining gingerbread mix. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. The cake may need another few minutes in the oven.
5. For a moist gingerbread, cool it in the pan on a wire rack. For a drier consistency, cool the gingerbread in the pan for 10 minutes; then turn it out of the pan and set it on the rack to cool.
6. Serve warm if possible, with whipped cream. Don't forget to eat this for breakfast; it's even better the day after it's baked.
Note: Keeps 5 to 7 days, tightly wrapped, on the counter, and freezes beautifully