How to make gingerbread

Monkey Business

Dear Lynne, 

The budget can’t cover my beloved gingerbread mix anymore. How hard is gingerbread to make? Could you share an easy recipe? 

–Beau in Houston

Dear Beau, 

Gingerbread is just about goof-proof if you remember not to stir it too much once the flour goes in. These spices might be an up-front investment, but buy small quantities and store them away from heat and light. They’ll hold well for about 6 months.

And they’ll take you far beyond gingerbread. For instance, cinnamon with chiles and garlic seasons pork; cloves and orange go with green beans; while ginger, warmed in butter with brown sugar and pepper, does magical things to pureed turnips and yams.

Dark and Moist Gingerbread
Serves 6 to 8 

15 minutes prep time; 35 to 40 minutes oven time

Keeps 5 to 7 days tightly wrapped on the counter and freezes for 6 months. What more could you ask from a cake?

The black pepper in this recipe brings alive the other spices. It’s an old trick from the days when gingerbread was for the well-to-do. They could afford the pepper, ginger, cinnamon and clove, which were seen as treats and as health foods.

Another trick in this recipe is how you can change the gingerbread by switching the type of molasses you use. A dark organic molasses turns the bread a chocolate brown color and gives it a tart edge. With a mild supermarket molasses you’ll taste a gentler character and have a warm caramel color.

If you can, use organic ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups, less 2 tablespoons, all-purpose unbleached flour (measured by spooning into the cup and leveling)
  • 1 generous teaspoon baking soda
  • Generous 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon each ground cloves and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup mild or dark molasses
  • 3/4 cup very hot water (about 190ºF on an instant reading thermometer)
  • 1/3 cup tightly-packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • Whipped cream for serving (optional)

Instructions

1. Butter and flour an 8-inch square light-colored baking pan. Preheat the oven to 350° F. In a bowl or a bag, whisk or toss together the flour, baking soda, salt, and the spices.

2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the butter, molasses, hot water, and sugar. When almost frothy, beat in the egg. Gradually add the flour mixture. Stir it until thoroughly blended, but no more. Don’t over mix.

3. Pour the batter into the pan. Bake 35 minutes, or until a tester inserted in center of cake comes out clean. For a moist gingerbread, cool it on a rack in the pan. For a drier consistency, cool the gingerbread in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out of pan onto the rack.

4. Serve on its own, with whipped cream if you’d like, or present it rewarmed with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  

Hot Butterscotch Gingerbread Sundae: Take gingerbread over the top by alternating chunks of it with vanilla ice cream and drizzles of hot butterscotch sauce. Top the sundae with mounds of whipped cream.

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