In my last post, I mentioned baking gingerbread, which led to several requests for the recipe, including a comment from Marianne. I am happy to share, and was glad to have an excuse to make yet another batch.
I've been making this particular recipe for the past decade, beginning in graduate school. It arose from fond memories of my mother's gingerbread, which she would literally whip together after dinner when the impulse struck. Moist, dark, and not too sweet, it was one of the many desserts that cemented my love of that heavenly combination: brown sugar & butter.
Before I proceed further, I should note that I differentiate between ginger cake and gingerbread (my own quirk). In my mind, ginger cakes are grander affairs, often infused with strong libations, like coffee or stout, a panoply of spices far beyond ginger and cinnamon (think cardamom, allspice, black pepper, cloves, nutmeg, and more), and a no-holds-barred approach to butter. (Note: an exemplar case is the Guinness Stout Ginger Cake on epicurious.com. I made it for the groom's cake at our wedding. It's incredible).
Gingerbread, by contrast, is a modest affair that must exhibit some restraint. Moist, yes, but not too rich. Spicy, yes, but not too complex. One should be able to plate it as a simple dessert, then fork it up with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream or a drizzle of lemon curd (not ice cream; save that for cake). But a good gingerbread should also be sturdy enough for portability: wrapped in wax paper and tucked into a lunch sack; swaddled in a napkin for afternoon tea; or perched in one hand while holding a British novel with the other.
So back to the recipe at hand. I'm not altogether certain of the magazine from which this first originated--likely an old issue of Woman's Day that I picked up for 10 cents at a public library sale. But I do know that one of the first changes I made was with the the butter. I don't know why, but sometimes I cannot bear the thought of softening and creaming butter. I know all of the tricks for making it faster and easier, but it doesn't matter. If I can bypass it, I will. And so I did with this recipe, melting it for an easy stir. It was a success, and actually improved the texture (moister!) of the cake.
Emboldened, I cut the butter from 1/2 cup to 1/3 cup, and increased the buttermilk from 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup. Loved it. Finally, I upped the spices (not too much), swapped the plain sugar for light brown sugar, and replaced the honey (no, no, no!) with dark molasses. Oh yes; hello, gingerbread.
The recipe stayed the same for several more years, until two years ago, when I started testing recipes for my Enlightened Cakes book. I got on a whole wheat pastry flour high and started using it in almost everything. (Kevin put his foot down on "everything"; we reached a crisis point when I tried to use it in his granny's cornbread recipe.)
But it made it into the gingerbread recipe and it's here to stay. Enjoy--I can vouch for this gingerbread's worthiness for all occasions. (Note: I'll be back to savory in the next post!)
Yes, I love the parchment paper; see how easy it is to lift the entire cake out of the pan in one fell swoop? I will expand on this topic in a future post.
Moist, Dark Gingerbread
This recipe, along with a cup of tea, is just about as "me" as it gets (that's one of my Gran's teacups above). I cannot think of a better (edible) combination to exemplify my homebody-ness.
1 and 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose flour)
1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 and 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup lowfat buttermilk
1/2 cup molasses (dark Molasses, such as Grandma’s Brand)
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Optional: powdered sugar for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 350°. Spray an 8-inch square pan with nonstick cooking spray (or line with parchment or foil).
Whisk the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl
Whisk the brown sugar, buttermilk, molasses, melted butter and egg in a large bowl. Stir in flour mixture. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake 27-28 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Sprinkle gingerbread with powdered sugar. Makes 12 generous pieces.
Nutrition per Serving (1/12 of cake):
Calories 168; Fat 5.6g (poly 0.4 g, mono 1.6g, sat 3.2g); Protein 2.8g; Cholesterol 29mg; Carbohydrate 28.1g; Fiber 1.7; Sodium 61mg)
(Note: I did the nutrition analysis using Diet Analysis Plus 7.0.1)