I’m currently on an airplane, somewhere over… somewhere. Wisconsin? A Dakota? I don’t know, Philadelphia to Seattle is a long flight.
I’ve got a bag brim-full of wrapped and ribboned presents tucked into the overhead bin above me, and I’m trying to ignore the fact that this airplane is chilly/bumpy/loaded with screaming children by listening to Rihanna on repeat and thinking about gingerbread.
Holiday travel! The best of the worst things to happen every year.
Really, it’s not so bad. We put up with the crowds and the security probing and the lines (and that moment of panic when you finally get to the front of the line at airport security and all of a sudden you are required to safely stow your ID/passport and remove your jacket/shoes/scarf/jewlery/laptop/hand lotion/spare change from your person/bag at once and wait this makes no sense, I just stood in line for thirty minutes doing nothing but it’s all happening so fast now and the people behind me are gaining ground, their shoes are already off and hurry up with that little baggie of liquids and why didn’t I wear socks and oh! My goodness. That moment. Will I ever not panic on the inside at that moment?) — we put up with all of the hustle and bustle and moments of claustrophobia and panic because, at the end of the day, we know it will all lead to gingerbread. Or roast beef or sugar cookies or lo-mein or whatever. It leads to Christmas, with family or friends or both, however you choose to celebrate it.
I’m taking a break from my familiar movie-and-Chinese-food routine this year and celebrating with some real, live non-Jews. (!) I know. A crazy choice. I’ve heard there will be a tree and a big dinner (no mention of General Tsao or his chicken) and presents and a reluctant dip (or possibly non-dip) in the freezing ocean and maybe even some carols.
And gingerbread! Nana’s recipe. It’s sweet and spicy and utterly lovely, its texture akin to the fluffiest, springiest layer cake. I love that this gingerbread is heavy enough with spice to evoke the season but light enough in texture to happily follow a rich holiday meal.
Whether you’ll be eating sweet and spicy gingerbread or sweet and sour chicken on December 25th, I wish you happiness. Fullness, inside and out, at the table and everywhere else, too.
I tweaked Nana’s recipe just slightly — I swapped allspice and nutmeg for ground cloves (I didn’t have any on hand), and added a pinch of salt. Nana’s original headnote reads: “This makes such a light and moist gingerbread – just sheer joy. Top with whipped cream.”
Well, you heard the lady.
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon ground dried ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup molasses (unsulfured)
- 1 cup vegetable or canola oil
- 2 teaspoons baking soda, dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water
- 1 cup boiling water
Heat oven to 325 degrees F, and spray a 9×13 inch baking dish (I used a brownie pan) with cooking spray. (Do not line the pan with parchment).
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar until smooth. Add the molasses, beating to combine. Slowly add in the oil and whisk continuously to incorporate. Whisk in the dissolved baking soda.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and beat well to combine. Add the boiling water to the batter, and beat lightly and quickly until incorporated.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan (don’t worry if it seems very thin and liquid-y – it’s supposed to!) and bake the gingerbread for 40-50 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
Allow to cool before slicing into large squares and serving with powdered sugar or fresh whipped cream.
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