Seasonal Sweetheart: Gingerbread Uncut
Berkshire native Alana Chernila, local politician, mother of two, and author of the new cookbook, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making (Clarkson Potter), dispenses change and cooking ideas to readers and friends. She shares her peak-of-the-season recipes with Rural Intelligence to help us make the most of what’s growing in our region. Her first cookbook has achieved top-seller status, and Chernila has just announced that she has a new one in the works: Meals from the Homemade Pantry (Clarkson Potter), due out in 2014.
I never intended to write about gingerbread again after I found the most exquisite, perfect recipe. I knew I could never top that one, and I still know that I can’t. But then a few external factors intervened. The appearance of the ever elusive black treacle syrup in my life did. We ducked into an ALL-BRITISH-IMPORTS shop. It was essentially an empty storefront with a British guy at a desk surrounded by metro shelving packed with biscuits and puddings and…black treacle syrup.
Treacle is a syrup that is a byproduct of the sugar refining process. There are, essentially, two kinds of treacle: golden and black. Golden syrup is widely available in the states and has become a staple in my kitchen. It’s a great replacement for corn syrup, and it’s the essential ingredient in that perfect gingerbread from way back. Black treacle, which is much more difficult to find over here, is very similar to molasses. It looks and behaves like molasses, but the flavor is far less bitter. I’ve always loved the idea of molasses far more than the stuff itself, and so black treacle is perfect for me.
And that is how I found myself making gingerbread.
That’s the kind of gingerbread this is. Not mind blowing or impressive. Not even pretty. This is the kind of gingerbread that will ground you. Sit down with a slice and cup of decent tea and your mind will slow down. It’s basic, and simple, and the definition of gingerbread itself. It will inspire you to look out the window as you eat it. It’s that kind of gingerbread.
Adapted from Laurie Colwin, More Home Cooking (and yes, this is one of my very favorite cookbooks on the shelf)
makes one 8-inch round cake
1/2 cup black treacle or molasses
6 tablespoons butter, plus extra for greasing the pan
4 tablespoons buttermilk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 heaping teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter an 8-inch cake pan, and line the bottom with parchment paper.
Combine the treacle and butter in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat until the butter is entirely melted. Set aside.
In a small measuring cup, whisk together the egg and buttermilk.
In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, brown sugar, and salt. Pour the butter mixture into the flour mixture and give it a few quick stirs. Add the egg mixture, and stir just to combine. Transfer to the prepared pan.
Bake for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 325 degrees. Continue baking for 25 to 30 minutes more, or until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean when inserted in the middle of the cake.
Serve with powdered sugar, or whipped cream, or just by itself. — Reprinted with permission from Eatingfromthegroundup.com . All text and photos copyright 2008-13 by Alana Chernila.