Archive for: gingerbread
Browned butter is a great addition to all kinds of recipes, both sweet and savory, because it adds a lot of depth to other foods. You might not think of gingerbread as a recipe that would need browned butter, since it already has a lot of strong flavors from molasses and various spices, but adding browned butter gives a gingerbread just one more layer of flavor and makes a good gingerbread that much better. My Brown Butter Gingerbread Cake Bars are a great example. The browned butter isn’t the dominant flavor in these tender cake bars, but it adds a certain addictive element that will keep you coming back for more.
This cake is relatively thin, not towering and thick, and that is why I cut it into smaller pieces to turn them into a beautiful snack-size cake bars. They may not look as dramatic when you plate them, but the small bars pack a lot of flavor for their small size – and a smaller piece means that I don’t feel guilty about seconds. The moist, tender cake includes molasses, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and vanilla in addition to browned butter, and these all come together for a classic – but not too aggressive – gingerbread cake. It is probably my current favorite gingerbread variation.
To highlight the browned butter a little bit more, and to finish off these bars, I topped mine with a batch of Browned Butter Cream Cheese Frosting. I used a tablespoon of browned butter that I set aside after browning the butter for the cake and blended it in with regular (not-browned) butter, cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar to make a creamy icing that gives just the right finish to the cake. The tanginess of the cream cheese combined with that nutty browned butter will have you licking your spatula – but I recommend icing the cake first to make sure you have enough! If you want to use the frosting for cupcakes, you should double the recipe, as this batch only makes enough to cover these cake bars.
Gingerbread men (or gingerbread women) are staples of the holiday baking season, right up there with classic sugar cookies as a treat that most bakers love to make. Gingerbread cakes are also popular around the holidays, although they don’t usually get decorated to the extent that smaller gingerbread cookies do. Nordic Ware’s seasonal Gingerbread Man Pan puts a little more fun into gingerbread cake with a pan that is shaped like a giant gingerbread man.
The cast aluminum pan has a classic gingerbread man shape, complete with a face, buttons and cuffs that will transfer from the pan to whatever you’re baking in it. It has a nonstick finish, so cakes should slide out quite easily and still keep their shape. The details on the face are clear enough that they won’t get lost during baking. You get a lot of personality from a pan like this – after all, its shape is instantly recognizable even if the smell of molasses and spices doesn’t drift out of it while looking at a picture online – so while it doesn’t necessarily have to be decorated, it is a lot more fun if you use a little bit of icing to dress the big man up as you would some of his smaller counterparts and give his face a little more expression before putting him on the holiday dessert table.
I don’t usually put Peeps into hot chocolate and prefer to simply eat them on their own, but I was inspired by some of the holiday Peeps that I tried recently since the holiday flavors seemed like they might be especially well-suited to drinking with a good cup of hot chocolate. I used the very cute Gingerbread Peeps as inspiration and made a Gingerbread Hot Chocolate to put them in.
Sometimes, I make hot chocolate with just cocoa powder, sugar and milk – a simple and easy to make blend. Since this gingerbread hot chocolate has some spice to it, I decided to add a little richness to the drink by adding real chocolate to give it a little more body and creaminess. I add both white chocolate and dark chocolate (you can use milk chocolate, instead, if you prefer), since I like the flavor of both but wanted a little extra sweetness from the white chocolate to counter the strong molasses flavor. The result is a nice fusion of gingerbread and hot chocolate, a lighltly spiced drink that is perfect for the holidays.
You don’t need a gingerbread marshmallow to enjoy this drink (even though they are adorable!), and you’ll find that regular marshmallows or even whipped cream make nice finishes, too.
I have a couple seasonal kitchen towels that I pull out for various holidays throughout the year. I have a set with hearts for Valentine’s Day, with bats and black cats for Halloween and all kinds of lights and decorations for Christmas. These ultra-cute Sugar Cookie and Gingerbread Kitchen Towels that Sur La Table is stocking for this holiday season are about to head into my holiday kitchen towel collection. Each towel has a list of ingredients for a classic holiday baking recipe: one towel has a sugar cookie recipe, the other has a gingerbread cake recipe. They have a great, festive look and any baker would get a kick out of them – especially if you get them as a set.
The one caveat to these towels is that there are no instructions for mixing the ingredients if you want to try the recipes. Fortunately, it’s not too hard to figure out how they should be put together. For the cookies: Mix the cookie ingredients as you would a standard cookie dough, chill it, then roll it out on a lightly floured surface and cut into desired shapes. 350F for 10-15 minutes should be plenty of baking time, depending on how large your cookies are. For the gingerbread: Mix the ingredients as you would for a typical butter cake, creaming the butter and sugar, adding the eggs and alternating the wet and dry ingredients. Pour into a bundt pan and bake at 350F until a toothpick comes out clean. Check the cake early to make sure you don’t overbake it.
The towels are made of cotton and measure 30″ x 20 1/2″. They’re soft enough to use for regular kitchen uses, like drying dishes or wiping up spills, but because of the designs I know that they would mostly be used for display (and maybe as a recipe guideline) and drying my hands, nothing heavy duty because I would want to keep them clean and presentable – even if they are towels!
Lemon is often paired with gingerbread because the bright, sharp flavor of the citrus is a good contrast for the dark, molassey flavor of gingerbread. Typically the lemon accent takes the form of a glaze or is served on the side as lemon curd. In this Meyer Lemon Gingerbread, I incorporated fresh Meyer lemon juice and plenty of lemon zest right into the gingerbread, making it sweet, spicy, bright and tangy all at the same time!
The gingerbread is moist, with a sturdy but tender crumb. It tastes like a cross between gingerbread and lemon bread, since you get notes from all the spices that contribute to the gingerbread, but it is all tied together with that zesty Meyer lemon flavor. I like using the not-too-tart Meyer lemons in baking because they add a lot of lemon flavor without adding a strong sour note that might overpower the other ingredients. In this recipe, you can definitely substitute regular lemon juice if you don’t have Meyer lemons. I highly recommend using fresh lemon juice – regardless of which type of lemon you choose – in this recipe to ensure that you get the brightest flavor and the best results.
This bread comes together very easily and can be sliced and served without any special glazes or garnishes. It is a good choices for a holiday dessert or a holiday gift because, like many other types of gingerbread, the flavor of this loaf improves over the course of a couple of days so it can be savored at home or shipped off to friends.