Saturday, December 24, 2011

Hot and Sweet Gingerbread

     In the year 992 an Armenian monk, Gregory of Nicopolis took up residence in the French village of Pithiviers.  He brought with him a recipe for Pain d'Epices or Spiced Bread from his homeland in the East.  Living a life of simplicity and penitence, he  perfected the art of gingerbread making and generously shared his honeyed cakes and baking skills with visitors and guests until his death in 999.  And so began the European tradition of gingerbread baking.  This recipe for Hot and Sweet Gingerbread is another humdinger from King Arthur Flour.  The addition of chopped, crystallized ginger gives this moist gingerbread an extra dose of heat and the cream cheese frosting adds the perfect cooling contrast to this spicy cake.  Mine baked for 25 minutes in a 10 inch oven with 8 coals around the base and 18-20 on the lid.  Check it with a cake tester to make sure it's completely baked in the middle.  I baked the cake then let it sit overnight for the flavors to intensify before frosting.  If you're a gingerbread purist, skip the frosting and enjoy the bold flavors of this amber cake with a dollop of whipped cream flavored with a sprinkling of cinnamon.

Hot and Sweet Gingerbread
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
2/3 cup molasses
2/3 cup boiling water
4 Tblsp unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose Flour
1 tsp each cinnamon and ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped
Ginger Cream Cheese Icing
4 Tblsp (1/2 stick) softened butter
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups (6 oz.) confectioner's sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped

     Lightly oil or spray 10 inch dutch oven; line with parchment paper.
     In a large bowl, blend the sugar, molasses, boiling water and butter; stirring until the butter melts.
     When the mixture is lukewarm, add the baking soda, salt and egg.
     Sift together the flour and spices; add to the wet ingredients.
     Gently stir in the crystallized ginger.
     Pour the batter into prepared dutch oven.
     Bake at 350 degrees for 25-28 minutes, or until it tests done.
     Cool completely before frosting.

Bake thin, spiced batter at 350 degrees for 25-28 minutes

When cake has cooled frost with cream cheese-ginger icing

The flavors of Christmas in every bite

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