Friday, October 23, 2009

The Trouble With Gingerbread

The Trouble With Gingerbread “Had I but a penny in the world, / thou shouldst have it for gingerbread.” —William Shakespeare from Love's Labor Lost
When the leaves start to turn, I think of baking. One morning this week I woke up with the word gingerbread in my mind. I knew I had to bake some. Is anything as wonderful as the fragrance and spicy-sweetness of gingerbread when the sky is that incomparable blue and there’s a chill in the air?
I must warn you though, dear reader, my gingerbread recipe is faulty for several reasons. First, it tends to bubble over the top of whatever container I bake it in. So after I baked it according to the recipe, I tried again, different containers and substituting half the baking soda for baking powder. It still bubbled and didn’t taste exactly quite as good. Here’s the original, delicious, yummy recipe.

Old Fashioned Gingerbread from Bon Appetit via my friend Cass Mairs
2/3 Cup solid vegetable shortening
1 Cup sugar
2 extra large eggs
1/3 C strong brewed coffee cooled

2/3 C molasses
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ tsp grated lemon peel (or more)
2 C unbleached all purpose flour (I use King Arthur’s when possible)
4 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground allspice
½ tsp salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, grease and flour a 9 inch square pan. You may also use muffin tins or as I did fancy brioche bakers.
Beat shortening and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until blended. Add eggs and beat until light and fluffy. Add molasses, coffee, vanilla and lemon peel; beat to combine. Sift flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, cloves, allspice and salt over shortening mixture. Stir just until combined. Transfer to prepared pan(s). Bake until tester inserted in center comes out clean – about 45 minutes. Serve warm. This recipe can be made ahead. I like to let it cool for a few hours before serving (this causes problems which I’ll explain later) as the crust hardens and tastes better. To reheat, warm in 300 degree oven for 15 minutes. Serve plain, or with lemon sauce... or with lemon sauce and whipped cream.

I recommended allowing the gingerbread to cool out on the counter for several hours. The problem with this idea is that because while baking it has bubbled over the edges of the pan, every time I walk by, I break a bit of this off. To help cover up the nibbled edges, I serve it with this lemon sauce.

Lemon Sauce – my mom’s recipe which my sister Stefanie wrote down for me
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 Cup sugar
Dash salt
1 Cup boiling water
2 Tablespoon butter ( or for the non- dairy version use coconut oil)
2 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon peel (I use 2 Tablespoons !)
In a sauce pan, mix together cornstarch, sugar and salt. Blend well
Add boiling water and stir until well mixed
Cook over low heat, stirring frequently – for five minutes as it boils. The mixture should be clear and thickened.
Remove from heat
Add butter or coconut oil
Stir until melted
Add lemon juice and peel
Variations: Add 1 Tablespoon Vin Santé or other sweet lemony wine such as Lemoncello. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla – though this will change the color. You may also add a scant drop of yellow food coloring if you want – but not too much or the sauce suddenly looks radioactive.
The other problem with my gingerbread recipe is that it is irresistible!


  1. This sounds great! Im sure the house smells just as yummy as the Gingerbread tastes. I will have to try it and let you know. I have the same sort of nesting, baking thoughts as soon as it turns crisp outside. Thanks for the recipe.

  2. I do like gingerbread but this post made me REALLY want some giant ginger cookies....Maybe next week I will have time to do that one.

  3. This is the best recipe EVER. I'm so serious. I would eat this every day for the rest of my life. Try it blog reader. You'll love it so much you might just gain 10 pounds from thinking about making it.

  4. There is something about the smell of spices in the air that I just love on a crisp cool day!

  5. I use an English ginger bread recipe that does not have that problem but is dense and dark and sticky. Its great to freeze and better for it even up to three months later, I also make it it will a thick lemon glaze. There is something inherently good about the dark rich stickiness of the bread with the light white lemon glaze on top.

  6. Wonderful! (How much molasses do you put in?) - Lisa Meyer

  7. Oh, thanks Lisa, I forgot to list the molasses with the ingredients. The recipe calls for 2/3 Cup.