Maple Gingerbread

December 7, 2009

 

Categories:
Cakes, Dough & Desserts, Fall, Holidays, Local Eating, Recipes, Winter


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On Friday, I sat at my desk and watched fat puffs of snow fall from an all-white sky. Ordinarily it would not be such an occurrence for me to be distracted by drifting snow on December 4th. But last Friday, I was really, really mesmerized. At times, completely lost in a faraway fantasy, which may also have had something to do with the Christmas cookies one of our interns brought in. Also, my after school class was canceled. As I stared at the flecks of white, I, too drifted away, back to so many gray mornings when I huddled silently, blankets tucked behind my tiny head, praying, praying praying for the welcome ring of the snow day phone call. How is it that little kids can sense a snow day? They came like Christmas morning, with me trying my very hardest to stay in bed past 5am, but squirming with anticipation while thoughts of sledding and hot chocolate danced through my head.

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Still, those mornings happened in Connecticut, far north of here. Here, it rarely snows at all—though last winter there was a fifteen-minute flurry that caused as many accidents during its fleeting lifespan. And even though not an inch stuck to the wet ground, the Houston Independent School District was quick to shut its doors this year, remembering, I suppose, the many car crashes that ensued during the city’s last dusting.

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Or maybe the educational honchos did it because they felt like every kid deserves at least one snow day in his or her lifetime. Did a very benevolent superintendent wake up and think to himself, “This day, December 4, might be my only chance to give these kids a shot at snow angels?” Or maybe he wanted to give all his exhausted teachers a chance to put their feet up with some hot, buttered rum. These were the things I thought about as I stared at my reflection against the backdrop of a neighbor’s white, speckled rooftop.

The house was full this weekend, which always makes things feel festive, no matter what the weather. But these last few days, with friends and flurries all around us, things really felt special. The kind of special that makes you want to eat gingerbread and homemade whipped cream.

honey

A few of our favorite people came by on Saturday night for an evening of champagne; spicy shrimp and chorizo soup; a caramelized onion crostata; a lively game of charades and finally gingerbread, dusted with sugar and piled high with whipped cream. All of that eating, drinking and playing exhausted us enough to spread communally onto couches and overstuffed chairs and fall asleep—like the naked lethargarians in the Phantom Tollbooth. I always identify with those little creatures after a big meal. Needless to say, I woke up this morning feeling very full of the holiday spirit indeed.

And though the guests have departed, a few slices of maple gingerbread remain, along with quite a cloud of whipped cream. A gal can never feel sad with a fridge full of the holidays.

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Maple Gingerbread

Adapted from The Joy of Cooking

With all ingredients at room temperature, preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and flour a 9-inch square baking pan.

2 ¼ c all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp salt

1 c hot water
½ c light molasses
½ c local honey
½ c maple syrup

½ c (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg
½ c sugar
3 tbs chopped, crystallized ginger tossed lightly in flour (optional)

Whisk together the flour, soda, ginger, cinnamon and salt.

In a separate, small bowl, whisk together the water, molasses, honey and maple syrup

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or not if it’s snowed so much that the power’s gone out) blend together the butter, egg and sugar.

Add the wet and dry ingredients, alternating between each and mixing thoroughly with each addition.

Before pouring batter to pan, stir in crystallized ginger.

Bake approximately 1 hour, serve with homemade whipped cream and a bit of confectioner’s sugar.

Whipped Cream

1 pint of heavy cream
½ c confectioner’s sugar

Here you will want to use some electrical assistance—hopefully your lights are back on.
Pour cream into the bowl of a hand or stand mixture and beat until it fluffs, adding sugar after the cream takes form.

Add as much or as little sugar as you like, depending on the demands of your sweet tooth.

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