Tales of Gingerbread

Gingerbread has been baked in Europe for centuries and gingerbread making in America has its origins in the traditions of the many settlers from all parts of Northern Europe who brought with them family recipes and customs. By the nineteenth century, America had been baking gingerbread for decades. But you don't see many recipes for just plain gingerbread anymore. I mean the cake kind of gingerbread. You get gingerbread cookies, bars, houses , muffins, even men- just about anything but the real thing.  My mother made it and I bet yours did too. Mine served it with applesauce- but that's because of her German origins.

Now my sister thinks gingerbread is boring, boring, boring. I'm trying to convince her  to try this recipe for her sewing group next week. There is something so comforting about the smell of gingerbread baking in the oven; the whole house smells divine and spells holidays. Serve it hot or keep it warm in the oven. It's the perfect dessert for a chilly winter weekend.

Once again, I turned to Maida Heatter's very first cookbook. She calls this Moosehead Gingerbread and describes her recipe as one she got from an old-time Maine fishing guide. You'll be surprised at some of the ingredients: coffee, black pepper and dry mustard. I'm telling you, it works. Her recipes are no fail as long as you follow her detailed instructions exactly. And every single one of them is a perfect gem. I love her attention to detail- there are no questions left to ask.

This gingerbread is a treat all by itself and a wonderful dessert served with a mound of whipped cream,  a little sweetened Greek yogurt and pear or applesauce. As for me, I prefer a simple sweet/sour lemon sauce I found in Martha Stewart's Entertaining. She served it over something called Grateful Pudding. (Which I have served for Thanksgiving off and on- the fun name alone is reason enough to make it, but in addition, it's delicious. Hope you have the recipe. If not, say so when you comment and I will post it before the holidays. It's a magnificent steamed pudding- light in color.) You'll love this sauce over Maida's gingerbread.
Boring? I don't think so.

Moosehead Gingerbread
(Adapted from Maida Heatter's Book of Great Desserts)

2 1/2 cups sifted all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon powdered cloves
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teasoon black pepper, finely ground
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
2 eggs, room temperature
1 cup dark molasses
1 rounded tablespoon instant espresso coffee
1 cup boiling water

Place rack in the center of your oven. Preheat to 375°. Butter a 9 inch square pan and dust it lightly with fine bread crumbs.
Sift the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, mustard and black pepper together. Set aside.
In a mixer, cream the butter. Add the brown sugar and beat a couple minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Scrape down the sides of your bowl frequently. Add the molasses and beat until smooth. Dissolve the coffee in the boiling water. On low speed add the the dry ingredients in three additions and the coffee (remember it's hot!) in two.
Beat only until smooth. The mixture will be extremely thin. That's OK. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the top springs back when lightly touched.

Cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Invert on a rack, cover with another rack and invert back again. Serve warm.

Sour Lemon Sauce
(Adapted from Martha Stewart's Entertaining)

3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
pinch salt
1 1/4 cups hot water
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons lemon juice
3 teaspoons grated lemon rind

Combine sugar, cornstarch and salt and whisk until there are no lumps. (It is suggested you make this in a double boiler. I didn't.) Add the hot water and cook 3-5 minutes until thick. Add the butter, lemon juice and rind and continue to cook until smooth. This is very light in color.

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