Sunday, October 16, 2011

Modestly speaking, this gingerbread is awesome

I'm a little OD'd on gingerbread myself, having made EIGHT DOUBLE recipes for the Concert in the Clearing Reception I catered last night, but I'm willing to document so others can go forth, buy some Guinness, and start thinking about the holidays (gasp). The recipe is from Cook's Illustrated - although I don't know which issue. Hence the perfection as it was studied, researched, and thoroughly tested. One of the problems solved was the tendency of gingerbread to collapse in the middle when baking, and this one really doesn't. Be sure and follow directions exactly about stiring in the flour though because interestingly, that's the trick. That, probably plus the exact combo of Guinness, molasses and soda. Also, don't be tempted to use butter instead of vegetable oil.  It's there for a reason. Otherwise, I experimented successfully with using up to half whole wheat flour, ditto cornmeal and using both dark brown sugar and some rather potent molasses. All of those variations worked. Freezes well also. Enjoy.

Classic Gingerbread Cake
NOTE: This cake packs potent yet well balanced, fragrant, spicy heat. If you are particularly sensitive to spice, you can decrease the amount of dried ginger to 1tablespoon.

3/4    cup stout
1/2    teaspoon baking soda
2/3    cup mild molasses
3/4    cup packed light brown sugar
1/4    cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting pan
2       tablespoons ground ginger
1/2    teaspoon baking powder
1/2    teaspoon table salt
1/4    teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4    teaspoon finely ground black pepper
2       large eggs
1/3    cup vegetable oil
1       tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 8-inch square baking pan.
2. Bring stout to boil in medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda (mixture will foam vigorously). When foaming subsides, stil in molasses, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until dissolved; set mixture aside. Whisk flour, ground ginger, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and pepper together in large bowl; set aside.
3. Transfer flour mixture to large bowl. Whisk in eggs, oil, ang grated ginger until combined. Whisk wet mixture into flour mixture in thirds; stirring vigorously until completely smooth after each addition.
4.  Transfer batter to prepared pan and gently tap pan against counter 3 or 4 times to dislodge any air bubbles. Bake until top of cake is just firm to touch and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes. Cool cake in pan about 1 1/2 hours. Cut into squares and serve warm or at room temperature. Serve plain or with lightly sweetened whipped cream. Leftovers can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for 2 days.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Feeling like a pioneer woman

Since we've returned from our annual hiatus in Northen Michigan, I've been (very reluctantly) giving away the jars of canning I did in August. I'm so proud of myself I really just want them to sit on a shelf where I can gaze at them. Now I get why people enter these kinds of things in the Texas State Fair. They're beautiful. Little jewels of ready to eat food, patiently waiting to be used.

Luckly, Aunt Gayle was cleaning out her garage and had the door open so I saw an old canning kettle with basket which she was happy to give away. She also had some jars and I scrounged a few more. Ready to go.

Visited a local farm that had tiny cukes so first I made the pickles as I was confident of the recipe, having made the refrigerated kind previously. The pickles juice was so good I did another small batch using some odd sized jars and made pickled beets.

Got carried away buying fresh farmer corn so used almost a dozen ears to make corn relish. Tastes alot like the kind I used to get at the Neiman Marcus lunch counter many years ago.

Actually got the peaches at the store, but they were local. Had in mind a brandied peach thing, but only had rum on hand so that's it.

And finally attempted the jam. Cousin Ginny brought me some blackberries she and Jim had picked (secret location not revealed). I bought a pint of raspberries and because I still didn't have enought fruit for my recipe, threw in a few Michigan blueberries also. A miracle: jelled perfectly and tastes divine.

Carefully wrapped each jar in newspaper for the 1400 mile drive home and they all arrived intact. Possibly will all be gone by Christmas. Thank goodness we don't need to stock a cellar to survive the winter like the many of the pioneer women actually did, but if we did, I now have at least a clue how to go about it. I feel connected. And virtuous. And hungry.