My family and I adore all things ginger and gingerbread. Gingerbread and ginger cakes were a specialty of my mother’s family, so baking them creates a nostalgia and peace for me, especially during the holidays. This year, everything seem so displaced and disjointed; we cannot gather the same we used to, and we cannot have all of the faces we wish to see around the table.
So, this morning, I found myself thinking of my grandmother and wanting to make ginger cake. I can tell you that, rolling up my sleeves and sifting the flour on my wooden kitchen table, made me feel more connected – even though she passed away 26 years ago, and even though my Thanksgiving and Christmas are far smaller than what I am used to.
Here is the recipe. It is a little more nuanced than most ginger cakes, in my opinion. Most ginger cakes and bread have a cloying sweetness that I don’t care for. The addition of clove and cinnamon give it a depth. Of course, if you prefer things sweeter, feel free to add an extra half cup of sugar. You can top this with confectioner’s sugar, or a home-made whipped cream. Either are lovely. I hope you like it and that it gives you some comfort during a rough year.
Total Time: 2 hours; one hour to prepare and bake and one hour to cool
You will need:
6-8 ounces fresh ginger, peeled and minced.
3 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 and 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup (8 oz) unsulfured molasses
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup (2 sticks) melted butter
1/3 cup water
Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, pulse ginger until finely chopped. This should generate about one cup. Grease a bundt cake pan and set aside.
In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cloves. In another bowl, whisk together sugar and eggs.
On a stove top, heat the butter over medium-low heat. Stir in molasses, water and fresh ginger until fully blended. Add the molasses mixture to the bowl with sugar and eggs. Combine. Gently fold in flour mixture until just combined.
Pour cake batter into pan and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let it cool completely for an hour. Then, run a knife around the edge of the cake and invert. Dust with confectioner’s sugar or homemade whipped cream.
I have been stress baking lately, and looking to truly get more knowledgeable with my baking. I have always considered myself a much stronger cook than baker, although I have some solid basic skills, thanks to my mother). My mother’s family used to own a bakery, and had the ability to hand make (and slice) dobos tortes and other delicacies. I have, like so many of us, warm memories playing in dough and creating joy for others. So, getting more skilled at baking, in many ways, is a return to my roots.
This recipe is adapted from Paul Hollywood (The Great British Bake Off). It uses a free-standing mixture. Ciabatta is normally very wet, so using the freestanding mixer simplifies the process. This recipe calls for a long, steady rise. Resist the temptation to add more flour or rush things along.
I added in rosemary, because it is my favorite herb to add to bread. It has so many healing properties (anti-inflammatory, soothing your stomach, relief from cramps) that I can’t help but use it for my foccaccia, ciabatta and rustic breads. I have two large bushes that grow in my yard, so the rosemary I use is organic and fresh.
You will need:
4 cups white bread flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp instant yeast
A freestanding mixer
A square plastic tupperware (with lid) lightly oiled with olive oil. The square helps shape the loaf.
Semolina (for dusting)
Put the flour, salt and yeast with 1 and 1.3 cup cold water into a freestanding mixer fitted with a dough hook (don’t put the salt directly on top of the yeast). Begin mixing on a slow speed.
As the dough starts to come together, with the motor running, slowly add another 1/3 cup cold water, drip by drip. Mix for a further 5-8 minutes on a medium speed until the dough is smooth and stretchy.
Lightly oil a square plastic container with a lid.
Tip the dough into the oiled container and seal with the lid.
Leave for 1½ to 1¾ hours at room temperature, or until at least doubled, even tripled in size.
Dust two large baking trays with flour and semolina.
Dust your work surface heavily with flour and semolina and carefully tip out the dough (it will be very wet) – trying to retain a rough square shape.
Rather than knocking it back, handle it gently so you can keep as much air in the dough as possible. Coat the top of the dough with more flour and/or semolina.
Cut the dough lengthways, dividing into four equally-sized loaves. Stretch each piece of dough lengthways a little and place on the prepared baking trays. Leave the ciabatta to rest for a further 30-45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and bake for 25 minutes, or until the loaves are golden-brown and sound hollow when tapped on the base.
Leave to cool completely on a wire rack before serving.