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Gingery Gingerbread

(recipe, Mollie Katzen)


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Introduction

Fresh ginger makes this a more deeply flavored gingerbread than the kind you might have grown up eating. It's easy enough to grate the ginger, especially if you buy a knob that is very tight and crisp. It should have no wrinkles, and the skin should come off easily with just a little scrape of your fingernail. Peel it, and then use a Microplane grater or the fine holes of a box grater to grate it directly over the bowl, so you catch all of the liquid and solids. The brown sugar can be light or dark; both work very well. Note that you'll need to soften the butter for at least an hour ahead of time.

Ingredients

  1. ½ cup (1 stick) butter, plus a little extra for the pan
  2. 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  3. 2 tsp. baking soda
  4. 1½ tsp. baking powder
  5. ½ tsp. salt
  6. 2 tsp. cinnamon
  7. 1 Tbsp. powdered ginger
  8. ½ tsp. ground cloves
  9. 3 Tbsp. (3 to 4 ounces) grated fresh ginger
  10. ⅔ cup packed brown sugar
  11. ¾ cup molasses
  12. 2 large eggs
  13. 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  14. 1½ cups buttermilk

Steps

  1. About an hour ahead of time, unwrap the butter and place it in a large bowl. Use a table knife to cut it into 1-inch pieces, and let it stand at room temperature to soften.
  2. Adjust the oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees (325 if you're using a glass pan). Put a little soft butter on a paper towel, a piece of waxed paper, or a butter wrapper, and lightly grease the bottom and corners of a 9-by-13-inch pan. (No need to grease the sides.)
  3. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, powdered ginger, and cloves in a medium bowl. Whisk slowly to blend, then stir in the grated fresh ginger, whisking until it's distributed. Set aside.
  4. Crumble the brown sugar into the bowl with the softened butter. Use a handheld electric mixer at high speed (or if you don't have one, use a whisk, with enthusiasm) to beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the molasses and then the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl a few times during this process. Add the vanilla extract, and continue to beat for another minute or two, until everything is well combined.
  5. Add about a third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, slowly whisking just enough to mostly blend. Then pour in approximately a third of the buttermilk, and stir it in. Continue with another third of the flour mixture, and another third of the buttermilk. Then repeat with the remaining flour mixture and buttermilk. As you do this, switch to stirring with a spoon when the batter thickens and mix from the bottom of the bowl after each addition — just enough to thoroughly blend without overmixing. (It's OK if the finished batter is not completely smooth.)
  6. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, taking care to scrape all of it in with a rubber spatula. Then use the spatula to spread the batter evenly. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top is springy to the touch and/or a toothpick inserted all the way into the center comes out clean.
  7. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the gingerbread to cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes before cutting it into 24 rectangular pieces. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.

Note

You can add any of all of these delightful items to the flour mixture when you add the grated ginger: 1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries or cherries; 1/2 cup minced crystallized ginger; 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans; 1/2 cup golden raisins. Serve this with your favorite applesauce; a big spoonful of whipped cream; vanilla or fruit-flavored frozen yogurt, or vanilla, strawberry, or coffee ice cream; freshly cut fruit or defrosted frozen berries; store-bought caramel sauce, warmed briefly in a microwave or in a saucepan. Culinate editor's note: If you use a metal pan, the cake will cook faster, so check the cake for doneness after 30 minutes of baking.