Friday, November 17, 2006

Laurie Colwin's Gingerbread

My absolute favorite recipe for gingerbread comes from Laurie Colwin's great book Home Cooking. I've tried others, but have always returned to (and now never bother to stray from) this recipe, which is featured in the chapter, "How to Make Gingerbread." Ms. Colwin writes about her preference for a very gingery cake; her discovery of Steen's pure ribbon cane syrup -- the King of Molasses from the South; and, most memorably, lovingly recalls the afternoon she spontaneously made button-sized muffins and tiny cakes for her daughter, using her daughter's set of child-sized baking tins.
Laurie Colwin died young of a heart condition. I do not know much about what happened to her, only that the world lost a wonderful writer, and someone who must surely have been an extraordinary woman. Yesterday, one of my beloveds, my mother-in-law, underwent a heart procedure that probably saved her life. As my son and I sat at the kitchen table today, both eating a slice of the most comforting of cakes, I thought about Laurie Colwin, and my mother-in-law, and, of course, my Mom. Perhaps it's as Southern (gothic) as Steen's cane syrup to be thinking about death while eating gingerbread, but so be it.
Listen to your body, listen to your heart, and try Laurie Colwin's gingerbread...that is, if your cardiologist doesn't mind you having a little butter & some eggs.
Makes one nine-inch cake:
1. Cream one stick of sweet butter with 1/2 cup of light or dark brown sugar. Beat until fluffy and add 1/2 cup of molasses.
2. Beat in two eggs.
3. Add 1 1/2 cups of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, and one very generous tablespoon of ground ginger (this can be adjusted to taste). Add one teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves and 1/4 teaspoon of ground allspice.
4. Add two teaspoons of lemon brandy. If you don't have any, use plain vanilla extract. Lemon extract will not do. Then add 1/2 cup of buttermilk (or milk with a little yogurt beaten into it) and turn batter into a buttered tin.
5. Bake at 350F for between twenty and thirty minutes (check after twenty minutes have passed). Test with a broom straw, and cool on a rack.
Chocolate Icing
1. Cream 1/2 stick of sweet butter. When fluffy add four tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa.
2. If you have some, add one teaspoon of vanilla brandy (easily made by steeping a couple of cut-up vanilla beans in brandy -- another excellent thing to have around), or plain vanilla or plain brandy. Then add about a cup of powdered sugar, a little at a time until you get the consistency you want.
This cake is also delicious with lemon icing. Substitute for the cocoa the zest of one big lemon, one teaspoon of lemon juice, and proceed as in chocolate icing.
Of course, you need not ice gingerbread at all. You can bake it in an adult-sized pan and shake powdered sugar on top or serve it with ice cream or leave it alone.

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen

Learn more about female heart health


Anonymous said...

Mmmmm. I love cheesecake.

Kathryn said...

Lisa, I hope your mother in law is okay. That was a moving post; thank you. And the gingerbread looked delicious...

domesticgoddess said...

I've been very curious about this gingerbread ever since reading the book a couple of months ago! You're right; she's such a special writer, and I love her take on food.
I'm so sorry about your m-i-l and really hope she is doing ok after the operation.

Rachel said...

I've had this recipe a while, but haven't 'read' her before. I shall have a look out for her book next time. I hope your mil is soon back to her old self. I often take comfort in certain foods in times of need too...

KJ said...

Hope that your MIL is recovering well.

Laurie Colwin is/ was an amazing writer she makes you smile, imagine, taste.. Like DG I have wondered about making her cake many a time too.


julie said...

I hope your MIL is feeling better.

I enjoyed your post (like all the others) and I really want to get that book early next year:)