November 26, 2011

Extra Gingery Gingerbread

Eating at my parents house is an art. Meals are thoughtful--balanced and flavorful. Afternoon snacks are serious productions. For the few days surrounding Thanksgiving, the kitchen is the center of all activity. All morning is a rolling breakfast, accommodating those who wake up early and those who straggle in toward noon as the early risers are starting to think about lunch (or second breakfast).

Although the focus is, of course, on preparing the Thanksgiving dinner itself, no other meal is neglected, and this year our Thanksgiving eve dinner was a feast all in itself. My sister made a barley, white bean, kale risotto that was other-worldly. I will share the recipe with you just as soon as I learn how to make it. I was in charge of dessert, and, at my mother's request, made an old family favorite--Maida Heatter's Moosehead Gingerbread, which I have raved about before.

Gingerbread, which, if it has a season, is probably a winter dessert, is always cozy and hearty. It tastes like being home tucked in during a snow storm. With extra spice, it tastes like being home tucked in during a snow storm with all your closest friends having a dance party. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I LOVE gingerbread. I love it made into a cupcake with chocolate ganache frosting. I love it plain with a cup of coffee for breakfast. Gingersnaps are good too. I guess the common denominator is the combination of ginger and molasses. When my mother mentioned she had a bottle of ginger liqueur to flavor some whipped cream, it occurred to me the combination might make a good cocktail too. Ginger liqueur, plus molasses, plus bourbon? If you've tried out something like this and have a good recipe, please tell me about it!

Over the years, I have enjoyed a number of different gingerbread recipes, but this one is my go to. First, it is incredibly easy. Second, the powdered mustard and the coffee give the flavor a rich complexity that is unrivaled in most other recipes I have tried. The texture is cakey but not too dense. It isn't particularly sweet. It is great on its own or with ice cream. In fact, I bought an ice cream panoply to accompany this dessert: a pint of ginger ice cream, a pint of hazelnut gelato, a pint of raspberry sorbet, and a pint of spicy chocolate ice cream. Between the eight people at the dinner table, we tested out a number of combinations, and everyone was satisfied. Personally, I went for the spicy chocolate, ginger, gingerbread trio, and yum.

Usually, I follow this recipe exactly, but, as I was preparing the batter, I found a box of crystallized ginger on the counter. I thought it might be tasty to chop some up throw it in the batter, and let it sink to the bottom (it is a pretty runny batter). I decided to use my parents' old coffee grinder (turned spice grinder) and quickly learned that the grinder doesn't chop crystallized ginger into small pieces; instead, it turns the ginger into a paste. Oh well! I threw it on in to the batter. The ginger flavor in this version is stronger, but, I would argue better! If you want a milder version, you can leave out the extra ginger.

- Franklin

Moosehead Gingerbread
Adapted from Maida Heatter's Book of Great Desserts
Total Time: 1 hour
Sweetness Factor: 5; Indulgence Factor: 5; Difficulty Factor: 3; Chance I'll Make it Again: 10.

2.5 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1.5 teaspoons powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon powdered cloves
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon (or more) finely ground black pepper
1 stick (1/4 pound) butter
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup molasses
1 heaping tablespoon instant coffee
1 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon (or more) puree crystallized ginger

Preheat the oven to 375 and butter and flour a 9*9 baking pan. In a small mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and whisk thoroughly together.

In a stand mixer (or with hand mixer), cream the butter. Add the sugar, and beat for a few minutes. Add the eggs one a time. I find that because there is so little sugar in this recipe (and because sometimes I don't start with room temperature butter) that sometimes the batter looks funny at this stage (globby), but don't worry, just keep adding ingredients, scraping down the sides, and beating. It comes together in the end!

Add molasses. Beat until smooth. Add the coffee to the boiling water and stir to dissolve. On low speed, alternate additions of the coffee and the dry ingredients, starting with the dry ingredients. Beat until smooth. As I said above, this is a pretty runny batter. Don't worry!

Puree the crystallized ginger (you could also just chop it finely, for a different effect). Add to the batter and beat until just combined. Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake about 35 minutes, until a tester comes out nearly clean and the top springs back when lightly touched. Cool in pan about ten minutes. You can remove from pan, or, for a less formal presentation, serve directly from the pan.

1 comment: