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Edith’s Gingerbread

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gingerbreadEarlier this year, John Griffin lent me his copy of “How to Cook a Wolf” by M. F. K. Fisher, an entertaining book written in 1942 during a time of war and shortages. The content seemed particularly timely in light of today’s economy, so the delightful read rang true on several levels. Fisher’s light style and sage advice were only part of the attraction. Several of her intriguing recipes found their way into my recipe collection.

I enjoy recipes that include steps that show me the science behind the cooking. In the recipe for Edith’s Gingerbread, two steps fascinate me. The first is “beat the ½ teaspoon soda into the molasses until it is light and fluffy.” I’d not read a recipe that combined baking soda into molasses before, and I had great doubts that the dark, thick goo of molasses could ever achieve a consistency referred to as “light and fluffy.” However, that’s just what happened as I followed the instructions. The second interesting step to me is to then place an additional ¼ teaspoon of baking soda to boiling water. I don’t completely understand the chemical reaction here, but it’s fun anyway.

When our Thanksgiving dinner guests departed this season, I sent each of them home with a small prize for the following day’s breakfast: one of Bonnie Walker’s yummy Raspberry Lemon Muffins and a slice of Edith’s Gingerbread. Comments were quite positive! Be sure to save some for the folks in your house to enjoy. It also freezes beautifully. I’ve added a few notes to help clarify a few points that were fuzzy to me in the original recipe.

Edith’s Gingerbread

¼ cup shortening
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger (Note: If using fresh ginger, use 2 teaspoons peeled, finely chopped ginger root)
Cloves (I used 1/8 teaspoon cloves)
Salt (I used 1/2 teaspoon salt)
1 ¼ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda in ½ cup molasses
¼ teaspoon baking soda in ¾ cup boiling water
1 beaten egg

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

[amazon-product]0865473366[/amazon-product]Cream the shortening and sugar together. Sift the sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt, flour and baking powder together. Beat the ½ teaspoon soda into the molasses until it is light and fluffy, and add to the shortening and sugar. Add the ¼ teaspoon soda to the boiling water, and then add it alternately with the sifted dry ingredients. Fold in the beaten egg when all is well mixed. Pour into a greased and floured pan and bake for 20 minutes (Note: I’ve used both a 9-by-9 -inch pan and a loaf pan with good results but needed about 35 minutes baking time. Test with a toothpick and when it comes out clean, the gingerbread is ready). This mixture will seem too thin to make a cake but do not increase the quantity of flour.

Makes one loaf or one pan gingerbread.

From “How to Cook a Wolf” by M.F.K. Fisher

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