I have always loved Gingerbread. Years ago when I was in elementary school, Gingerbread days in the lunchroom were hailed as mighty fine ones. That was truly years ago, when food in the schools was made from scratch, not this frozen processed stuff that is merely heated and served now in the schools. School lunches in my youth were awesome things.
Anyway, back to Gingerbread: spicy, warm, rich, moist and topped more often than not with a warm lemon sauce. Awesome! Granny made Gingerbread as well and served hers warm with chilled homemade applesauce on the side. Yum!
When I grew up and had children of my own, Gingerbread was one of our frequent desserts, especially in those early days when money was so terribly tight. It was fairly inexpensive to make and rich enough to satisfy the family sweet tooth and a smaller portion satisfied. Then I lost my recipe...and I spent years looking for a good gingerbread recipe. For once my favorite recipe book, The Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedia Cookbook, utterly failed me. Not one of the recipes was quite right. Some were too light, all were too dry and none had that spicy richness I wanted.
Last year when I was visiting the Culloden Library Booth at the Peaches to Beaches Yard Sale, I found a 1970 issue of Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, close enough to my long lost 1978 version to give me hope. Flipping it open to cakes, I found my favorite recipe for Gingerbread. I bought the book on the spot and made gingerbread that afternoon after returning home.
For me, Gingerbread is the quintessential Autumn dessert. I love it best when the weather is rainy and cold and I can turn on the oven, whip up a panful and fill the house with warmth and spice. That said, I do make it in occasionally in other seasons. But I make it more often in the colder months.
Sometimes I make it just as it is written below. Other times I make it more like an upside down cake and if you haven't tried this you really should. Proceed as you would for a pineapple upside down cake, melting butter in the bottom of your pan and adding brown sugar...then layer in thinly sliced pieces of apple or pear, pour over the Gingerbread batter and bake. It's an interesting twist and a good way to use up those last two apples or pears.
To serve Gingerbread: Cut into squares and eat plain, out of hand, while warm with a tall cold glass of milk to wash it down. For dessert, serve topped with lemon sauce (I don't have a recipe for this but it is essentially lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch and water cooked until thickened. It's a sweet tart sort of sauce), or applesauce or mix a spoonful or two of warm lemon curd into whipped cream and dollop on top.
1/2 cup shortening (some recipes call for butter. I use what I have on hand)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses (I like dark for the darkness it gives the bread...I have substituted cane syrup but I prefer molasses)
1 1/2 cups sifted self-rising flour
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup boiling water (you can use hot brewed coffee if you've leftovers)
Cream shortening and sugar until light. Add egg and molasses, beating thoroughly. Sift flour then add alternately with water, beating after each addition. Bake in greased and lightly floured cake pan, 8 X 8, at 350F for 35-40 minutes, until pick inserted in center comes out clean.
***Just a side note here...when I lived in an older home with plenty of holes for wintering mice to find their way indoors, I often baited mice traps with Gingerbread cubes. The mice found the spicy goodness irresistible, too!