Gingerbread. It’s for more than making houses and teaching kids the dangers of hubris, overconfidence, and ignoring the advice of others. It also tastes good. At least when made like this. So, put away the royal icing, the gumdrops, the candy canes. Open up the spice rack instead, and wrap your taste buds in true holiday yum.
This recipe is adapted from Lianna Krissoff’s Canning for a New Generation, a fabulous book focused on small batch canning. It has a truly diverse array of canning recipes. In particular, some creative recipes for preserves, which use no commercial pectin, are relatively low sugar, and leave identifiable pieces of fruit. More importantly, it gives recipes and other suggestions for using the things you can.
This gingerbread is one of those, using either ginger preserved in syrup, or candied ginger (which she calls “cyristalized ginger”). I admit to using commercially prepared candied ginger. It’s just two ingredients, maybe three (lemon juice is often added), and if you purchase in bulk, less expensive than the fresh ginger to make your own.
Still, if we grow ginger on our farm again, I’ll likely preserve some. The flavor of fresh, local ginger is completely different than the mature, cured ginger from the grocery. But it doesn’t store well. It’s also a fall crop, while Krissoff puts it in the ‘spring’ chapter of the book. Southerners…
Anywho, this gingerbread recipe is great, giving a moist, spicy, soothing, almost cake-like texture, contrasted with sweet, chewy nuggets of candied ginger. Great anytime, a wonderfully homey aroma, and suitably nondescript visually (so it doesn’t distract from the masterpieces of the holiday sideboard)
Using either ginger preserved in syrup, or candied ginger, alongside ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and other typical gingerbread ingredients, gives this gingerbread a unique flavor and texture profile. You may want to visit your nearest bulk foods store for candied ginger and molasses. The former is prohibitively expensive in little spice aisle jars, and you'll be using a lot of the latter!
Preheat the oven to 350 F. grease a 9" x 9" square baking pan.
Cream the butter and sugar in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or with an electric mixer). Add egg and molasses, and beat on high until it's fluffy and very light in color. This will take at least five minutes.
Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking soda, and spices together into a medium bowl.
Turn off the mixer, and scrape down the bowl. Turn it back on low, and add 1/3 of the flour mixture, allowing it to fully incorporate. Then add 1/2 of the water, and let it fully mix. Repeat with the next 1/3 of the dry goods, remaining 1/2 of the water, then the last 1/3 of dry. You want it thoroughly mixed and fairly smooth, but be careful not to overmix, or you'll have a tough gingerbread.
Remove the bowl from the mixer, and gently fold in the pieces candied ginger.
Scrape the batter into the baing pan, and bake for 30-35 minutes. You want to be careful not to overbake so it turns out dry. If you're a toothpick tester, stab it in the center with a toothpick, and it should come out clean. If you want more precision, stab it with an instant read thermometer, and it should be 210 F.
Cool on a wire rack. I know, it's hard to resist just digging in with a fork right away. But it will be worth it! Cut in squares to serve.