Gingerbread and other disasters

I was recently on February vacation (The second best perk of being a teacher!) It was a pleasant week and I managed to resume cooking a bit. On Monday I awoke with a sudden fever to make gingerbread. This is a forgiving quick bread with lots of variations. The dark color is appealing, and if you do it right the ginger flavor is very rich. I made this more complicated than it needs to be, so please consult (or ignore) all the notes at the end.  You could make a half batch of this everyday for a week until you found the right ginger/spice/sweetness ratio for your taste. Just keep the dry/wet ratio approximately the same. Also this is secretly 4 “recipes” in one: Gingerbread, simple syrup, ginger simple syrup, crystallized (aka candied) ginger.

P.S. In my excitement I knocked over my measuring cup of molasses and ginger syrup (smooth move slick!). Upside #1: my floor is an order of magnitude cleaner. Upside #2 though it was sticky, at least I didn’t spill molasses on a city!  Remember, molasses is both tasty and dangerous. Respect.

Ingredients:

(1-2 ounces Very Fresh Ginger, Brown or White Sugar, Water)*

1.5 C Flour

1/4 C cornmeal (You can leave out the cornmeal and the oatmeal and  replace them w/flour)

1/2 C oatmeal

1/2 C molasses

1/2 C ginger simple syrup*

1 stick (1/2 C) butter melted

1/8 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp allspice

pinch finely ground pepper

1/4 C (or more to taste) chopped candied ginger* (optional)

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

hot water

Optional: up to 1/2 C of coarsely ground nuts; 1 ounce shaved dark chocolate (super dark to semi-sweet)

Making It:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour, or parchment an 8 x 8 square pan or a 9 x 5 loaf pan, or a 9 inch cake round.

*Peel ginger: Ginger is easily peeled with a spoon. Slice it very thin, or into 1/8 to 1/4 inch match sticks (a couple of ounces will do nicely)

*Make Simple Syrup: is 1:1 sugar to water (in this case 1/2 each). Melt sugar in water over low heat until dissolved.

*Make Ginger Simple Syrup: Allow simple syrup (above) to boil. Add chopped or sliced ginger let simmer for 10 to 30 minutes (longer = softer ginger). Strain into a bowl or measuring cup, reserving the syrup. Lay ginger out in a single layer on parchment, wax paper or a greased cookie sheet. Allow to cool. Sugar will crystallize on the ginger as it is cooling. When it is cool dice it up.

Make (the @!#*!) gingerbread (already!): Measure the dry ingredients into the bowl and stir with a fork to mix. Add the wet ingredients in quick succession, adding the hot water last. Chuck in the nuts and the diced candied ginger if it’s not in there yet. Stir quickly, just long enough to mix thoroughly (make sure there are not pockets of unmixed flour at the bottom of the bowl, and no lumps). Pour it into a pan and bake.

The flat pans will take around 35 minutes, the loaf pan may take up to an hour. Check at 25 minutes for spring back. When it springs back, check with a knife or toothpick for internal doneness.

When you take it out of the oven, cut around the sides but let it rest in the pan for five minutes before turning it out on a cooling rack. Let it cool as long as you possibly can before cutting.

Notes:

I made this with gluten-free flour and added the other grains for texture. Not quite good enough, as gluten-free but I think the oatmeal will be great in a gluten version.

You could also soak the oatmeal in the hot water to modify the texture.

For a richer, more cakey (and slightly less crusty) version you might try making it with hot milk.

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