Recently, MOTHER EARTH NEWS' staff taste-tested several ginger recipes for this issue's Herb Garden column. And after sampling—or should we say devouring—the holiday fixings, we couldn't resist offering instruction for some additional spice-filled treats, along with the honors-winning recipe given in "Benefits of Ginger for Cooking and Healing." So the top four runners-up are presented here, as well as sourcebook information and some notes based on our own cooking experience.
Christmas Gingerbread Loaf
This recipe is adapted from Louis de Gouy's The Bread Tray (Dover Publications).
Start preparing the fruity-flavored delicacy by sifting together 4 cups of bread flour, 2 teaspoons of baking soda, 1 1/2 teaspoons of ginger, 3/4 teaspoon of salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of cloves, and 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg. To this dry mixture add 1/4 cup each of chopped nuts, seedless raisins, and mixed chopped candied fruit (we also included 2 tablespoons of minced preserved ginger).
In a separate bowl, combine 1 cup of melted butter or other shortening (we used vegetable shortening), 1 cup of buttermilk (our recommendation) or sour milk, 1 cup of molasses, 1 cup of honey, and 4 whole eggs. Beat the liquid ingredients until they're thoroughly blended, then add that mixture to the dry combination and stir vigorously. Pour your prepared batter into two generously greased bread pans (Our chefs dusted the tins with ground ginger first) and bake the loaves at 350°F for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the centers are firm. Cool the holiday bread before slicing, and serve the sections with whipped cream topping. You can store leftover pieces—if there are any—in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
The Junior League of Shreveport, Louisiana included this recipe in its book, Revel, which is available for $11.20 postpaid from Books Unlimited. The transforming touch which makes this soft cookie so delectable is provided by the freshly grated orange peel.
Cream 2 sticks of butter or margarine with 1 1/2 cups of sugar. Then add 1 egg and beat the batter until it's light and fluffy. Now, mix in 4 teaspoons of grated fresh orange peel and 2 tablespoons of dark corn syrup or molasses. In a separate bowl, combine 3 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons of baking soda, 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of ginger, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of cloves. Add these ingredients to the creamed mixture before blending everything well.
Chill your prepared dough thoroughly. Then, working with small amounts at a time (leave the remainder in the refrigerator until you're ready to use it), roll it out to 1/4" thickness on a lightly floured board or pastry cloth (we found that the latter made it easier to lift the cookies).
After you cut out your gingerbread figures, place the spicy desserts an inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake them for 8 to 10 minutes at 375°F. Cool the snacks for a minute before removing them from the pan. Now, you're ready to decorate ... and to share.
Our next recipe is adapted from Cooking With Spices and Herbs edited by Judith Gaulke (Lane Publishing Co., Menlo Park, California). The collection is out of print at present, but you might find a copy at your bookstore or public library.
Ginger biscuits proved to be a great favorite with our workers, even though we had to serve them cold. Hot, slathered in butter, they're absolute mouthwatering! We all agreed that crystallized ginger is the "secret ingredient that gives these biscuits their wonderful flavor and texture.
To make the holiday treats yourself, mix together 2 cups of flour, 4 teaspoons of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 cup of sugar (if honey is used as a substitute, add it to the liquid ingredients). Now, cut 6 tablespoons of solid shortening or butter into this mix until resembles small peas in size, and stir 1/2 cup (about 3 ounces) of finely chopped crystallized ginger until the sweet morsels are evenly distributed. Next, beat 2 eggs lightly in a measuring cup, then add enough milk to make 1/2 cup of liquid. Pour this into your flour mixture and blend the combination with a fork.
At this point, you can shape the resulting dough into a ball and knead it gently four or five times on a lightly floured board. Then roll or pat it out to about 1/2" thickness, cut the pastry with a biscuit cutter (or the rim of a small drinking glass), and arrange the disks, leaving about 1 1/2 inches between them, on a greased baking sheet. The recipe will make approximately 15 large or 30 small biscuits
Brush the tops of the pastries lightly with melted butter or cream, and bake the ginger rounds in a 425°F oven for about 10 minutes, or until they're golden brown. Serve them up hot!
This robust loaf is from The Garden Way Bread Book by Ellen F. Johnson (available for $9.95 postpaid from Garden Way Publishing Co).
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Sift together 3 cups of flour, 2 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of allspice. In another—and larger—bowl beat 2 eggs until they're light in color and slightly thickened. Add 1/2 cup of melted butter (or part butter and part light oil which was our preference), 1/2 cup of unsulfured molasses, and 1 cup of evaporated milk (or you can use—as we did—a half-and-half blend of milk and cream).
Beat the liquid ingredients again, then stir in 3 tablespoons of grated fresh ginger root (if that's unavailable, 1 tablespoon of ground ginger will do), 1/2 cup of chopped crystallized ginger, and 1 cup of chopped nuts. Now, fold in the flour mixture—blending it in with a spatula until it's just incorporated—and pour the batter into a large, well-greased loaf pan. (Again, we pre-dusted our container with ground ginger.) Bake the bread for 50 minutes or, until its top feels springy and a test straw in the middle comes out clean.
Let your Jamaican treat rest in the pan about 10 minutes before removing it to a rack. Finally, serve thin slices topped with sweet butter, whipped cream, or whipped cream cheese. Ah ... delicious!