Happy New Year with Gingerbread Dreams

Happy New Year!  2011 brought a LOT of changes for me.  I graduated with my doctorate, got married, got my first real job, and moved to a different state.  It certainly was a busy one for me.  With all that change, the blog got a little neglected, but I’m back with a lot of fun new kitchen gadgets and an arsenal of recipes, so watch out!

Wisconsin has not yet realized it is winter, so we have no standing snow and I haven’t even my pulled out my snow boots.  What is January without snow?  Saying that, I’m not complaining that it hasn’t been below freezing every day, but as a Midwesterner, I get a little suspicious when I can’t see the white stuff at the start of winter.

One thing that always makes me think of winter is gingerbread.  I revel in the earthy, slightly sweet and complex flavor.  I embrace the warm, spicy smell of it baking in the oven.  You can almost close your eyes and feel the snow softly falling outside while it bakes.  

Gingerbread has a wonderful history.  I’m sure most readers are familiar with gingerbread cookies, which are little cut out men that are often thin and crispy.  This is not the only type of gingerbread, rather this is a type of gingerbread cookie.  The other kind of gingerbread is a cakey, quick bread, more like a brownie than a cookie.  It originates from Europe, most notably central Europe in countries like Germany and France via Armenian monks.  Today, in these European countries, gingerbread is enjoyed in cookie form for gingerbread houses or large cookies worn as necklaces and in cake/bread form as squares or round shapes similar to muffin tops.  These are often lightly iced with vanilla or chocolate, and they are fantastic.  I have had the privilege of enjoying true German gingerbread, and there really is nothing like it.  But this comes close.  🙂

From Lick My Spoon

Black, Sticky Gingerbread

You can bake this in two 9×5 bread pans to make a loaf or you can cook it in a 9×9 pan for something more similar to a cake or brownie.

1 cup unsalted butter

1/2 cup water

3/4 cup unsulphured molasses

3/4 cup of quality honey

1 cup tightly packed dark brown sugar

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp ground ginger

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp mace or nutmeg

1/8 tsp ground clove

3 large eggs, room temperature

1/2 cup milk

1 Tbl packed, grated ginger

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Lightly grease baking pan and line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper that has been cut to hang over two opposite edges by a couple of inches.

Combine the butter, water, molasses, honey and brown sugar in a medium non-reactive saucepan and place over low heat.  The most common non-reactive is stainless steel or glass.  Stir the mixture frequently until the butter is melted, and all of the ingredients are well blended. Remove from the heat, pour into a large bowl and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, all-spice and cloves, and set aside. When the molasses mixture feels just warm to the touch, add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the milk and stir to combine. Fold the dry ingredients into the batter in four additions, using big, long strokes. Don’t be concerned if you can’t get all the lumps out.  Stir in the grated ginger.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the center of the oven for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours for a full pan, around 1 hour for bread pan, or until the top of the cake springs back when touched and a cake tester inserted into the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool for 15 minutes, then, using the overhang of parchment, lift the cake out of the pan and cool completely before cutting.

Hello world!

Zucchini BreadThis is the beginning of something beautiful – a food blog.  I have been an amateur foodie living in a city of delicious and delectable food for a couple of years now.  After years of reading about food, enjoying it, and experimenting with it, I finally decided to write about my own endeavors in it.

For my first post, I chose something simple and delicious – Zucchini bread.  As you might know, zucchini is a summer squash, meaning it is coming out of most people’s ears this time of season.  Now, I often make savory dishes with zucchini, but zucchini bread is a great way to make your veggies a yummy, chocolaty treat.

I modeled this particular dish after a recipe I found in the Joy of Baking.  Most chocolate zucchini breads have chocolate chips or melted chocolate in it.  I skipped this step because I wanted a slightly sweet treat, but I also wanted to feel like I was still eating something good for me, not just chowing down on chocolate.  Instead, this bread has some nice spice with a subtle chocolate flavor.  It’s actually very light, airy, and decadent.  This recipe could certainly work as breakfast or a sweet after-dinner treat.

1 1/2 c raw, shredded zucchini (one medium zucchini shredded)

1/2 c all-purpose flour

1/2 c whole wheat flour

1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp baking powder

dash of salt

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/8 tsp nutmeg

1/2 c canola oil

1/2 c granulated white sugar

1/2 c light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place rack in the center of the oven.  Grease a 9×5×3″ loaf pan.

In a bowl, whisk together the flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.  Set aside.

In a bowl beat the oil, sugars, eggs, and vanilla extract until well blended.  Fold in the grated zucchini.

Add the flour mixture, beating just until combined.   Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the bread has risen and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 5o minutes.

Cool completely before cutting.