to be surprised | gingerbread

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For as long as I can remember, I have been staunchly non-gingerbread. It would make an occasional appearance, unbidden, at Christmas cookie decorating parties, so we threw some icing and red hots at it, trying to be funny, but that just made it angry.  That's the problem with gingerbread after all ~ it's just a bad sport. Done incorrectly it's difficult to pinpoint any one particular flavor, least of all the ginger, which comes in muffled like indistinguishable yelling from downstairs.

So shortbread took its place as classic holiday cookie. My stand-by's are a classic butter shortbread with lemon curd, and an espresso shortbread with dark chocolate chunks, which will surely make their appearance here around the holidays. But first, I feel an obligation- nay, a duty- to introduce you to this gingerbread.

I was willing to take a chance on this gingerbread for three reasons. First of all, because it was from Ruth Reichl. Second of all, because of the ingredients list : sour cream, fresh ginger, black pepper, orange zest. It just sounded friendlier - like a younger, happier version of the crochety old gingerbread I'd known. And thirdly, I feel like it's only fair to try to find a way you like something. I didn't like brussels sprouts (did anyone?) until I brought home the teeny cabbages from the farmers market and caramelized them with bacon and toasted walnuts. I crossed swiftly into brussels-sprouts -fanatic territory, and I'm afraid I've done the same here. We've already polished off two batches of this gingerbread in two weeks.

The recipe was in the back of Ruth Reichl's novel, Delicious!, and the story is as good as the bread. I listened to this fun spotify playlist from BevCooks while I baked and it felt like living my very best life:

Billie's Gingerbread, ever so slightly adapted from Ruth Reichl's, Delicious!

  • 1/4 tsp whole black peppercorns (in a grinder mill works perfectly)
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp freshly ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 c. sour cream
  • 1 1/2 stick (6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 large pieces of fresh ginger root (1/4c. tightly packed, when grated)
  • zest from 2 oranges (1 1/2 tsp. when zested)

for the glaze:

  • 3/4 c. powdered sugar
  • 5 tsp orange juice

Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour a 6 cup bundt pan.

Grind your peppercorns, cloves, cardamom, and cinnamon. I buy mine from the HEB bulk goods section because they're really fresh, which is important for this recipe. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt in a small bowl.

In another small bowl, combine the eggs, egg yolk, and sour cream.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (I'm sure a hand mixer would work well too), cream together the butter and sugar until it's really light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Grate your ginger - I peeled it with a paring knife and then used a zester to grate it - and zest the oranges. Add to the butter/sugar mixer + combine. Set the oranges aside to juice for the glaze.

Add the flour mixture and the egg mixture to the mixing bowl, alternating between the two, until the batter is incorporated. It will be smooth and light and loooovely.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 40 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean. Let it cool for about 10 minutes, then turn it upside down onto a plate or cooling rack.

Once the cake is cooled, mix the confectioners sugar with the orange juice and drizzle over the cake.  Serve it right away with a glass of milk.

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