Is there any more powerful draw to the kitchen than the smell of baking gingerbread? The unique combination of ginger, molasses, and cinnamon carries with it the feelings of warmth, home, and welcome. It’s a lot like the perfect hug on a plate.
Since gingerbread is so tied to everyone’s taste memories, everyone assumes that recipes for gingerbread are easy to come by. There are fewer around these days than you might think, because it’s not actually “trendy” right now. We surprised ourselves when developing our King Arthur Flour Guaranteed recipes to find that after 10 years of putting recipes online (and a collection of well over a thousand), we didn’t HAVE a gingerbread recipe up there.
I had the happy task of developing a gingerbread recipe that would be easy to put together and pretty much bulletproof. The result? This Gingerbread, which sailed through our testing process with remarkable ease. No matter who baked it, using all-purpose or whole wheat flour, the results were universally moist and tender.
First, turn on the oven and grease your baking pan. We’re going to use a dressier pan this time; it’s our stoneware “wavy baker,” also known as our Harvest Baking Dish.
Its shape is a bit different than the 9” square pan the recipe calls for. How do you know if a standard-size recipe will work in a different-shaped pan? The quickest way is a quick “squinch” (square inch analysis). A 9” x 9” pan has 81 square inches of baking surface. The harvest baker measures 8” x 12”, which comes out to 96 square inches. That’s 20% bigger than the 9” square pan’s amount.
There are a couple of choices in this situation. Convert the recipe, by multiplying all of the ingredient amounts by 1.2, or do something a little more seat-of-the-pants, which is what I did. The recipe has a couple of optional ingredients: diced crystallized ginger, and a cup of diced dried apricots. I added both, which increased the recipe’s volume enough to make it work in the bigger pan.
Off I went. First, I measured out the dry ingredients. If you measure with a scale, as we most often do in the test kitchen, it’s a good idea to place your ingredients in distinct piles like this as you work your way down the list. That way if you get interrupted, you can tell where you left off by looking what’s in the bowl and what isn’t.
After melting the butter, I poured the molasses into the same container. You can do this even if you don’t have a scale, because as you can see the molasses will drop right down underneath the butter, and you can measure the 3/4 cup in the recipe with the butter floating above it.
Now they go into the flour mixture. I’m particularly fond of my Danish Dough Whisk for mixing quick breads like this.
Next it’s time for the egg and buttermilk.
Now the ginger and apricots.
Once the batter is mixed, it goes into the pan.
There’s a fair amount of headroom, as you can see, but the gingerbread will get significantly taller as it bakes, so not to worry.
Here it is in the oven after 20 minutes; as you can see, it’s beginning to climb.
The standard recipe calls for a 30 to 35- minute bake, in a metal pan that’s more shallow than this one. I found that after 35 minutes the center of the gingerbread was still quite wet (the top wobbled when I touched it lightly in the middle, too: looked a lot like a waterbed).
So I started setting the timer for 5-minute intervals. By the time the gingerbread was cooked in the center, it had baked for 50 minutes.
It seemed like a lot of extra time, but when I thought about it I remembered I’d added extra volume (the ginger and apricots), and the shape of the pan was also slowing things down. Ceramic pans don’t transfer heat as quickly as metal ones do, and the extra headroom in this baker was also deflecting some of the heat.
Now that I had a lovely pan of gingerbread, I decided to finish dressing it up with some spritzes of whipped cream and some jaunty Ginger Babies . Now my dessert is ready for company: the perfect treat on a cool fall day.
Read, review, and rate (please!) our recipe for Guaranteed Gingerbread.
Buy vs. Bake:
Buy: City Café Bakery, gingerbread sheet, $7.00, 77¢ per slice
Bake at home: King Arthur Guaranteed Gingerbread, $3.71 for the cake, 41¢ per slice