Experimenting in Baking

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I participate in a list serve which feeds posts from several hundred ladies into my mail box every day. My participation has been minimal these past few months while I’ve been working so hard on my writing, but I’ve been reading avidly. Yesterday someone posted about gingerbread.

I love gingerbread and stay completely away from it. It only crops up rarely and usually I’m prepared to resist it as it always crops up close to Christmas. However, being only December 1st, it caught me off guard. I thought about the gingerbread recipe all day and dreamed about it last night. I opened my mail and the post hadn’t been deleted and I re-read it. It takes 10 minutes to mix. Good! It was ten minutes to nine and I wanted to watch Regis and Kelly.

I shot off a reply that I would be making some today. I printed the recipe. I was going to copy and paste into my notepad but I saw the tiny little link that said printable recipe. OK, better yet. I printed the recipe. I was dismayed when page two arrived first and contained only the last one and a half steps at the very top of the page. There is a giant picture and the authors name on the first half of the first page. Was this really necessary?? Who wants a two page recipe? Sighing, I removed it from the printer and then went into the kitchen and checked my cupboard.

Recommended Reading: Get started with baking by reading our Ultimate Guide to the Best Baking Equipment for Beginners!

I had everything but nutmeg and molasses. But, I had corn syrup. This is the same consistency so, no problemo…right? I never have nutmeg and since I don’t like it, I always just add extra of another spice. I felt comfortable because I had ginger, cinnamon and cloves. This is gingerbread flavor. I’m good to go.

I’m the queen of making do, ingredients substituting and making adjustments. I always win. I confidently began by creaming the butter and sugar. My cloves were real cloves. Hard little sticks that I bought a year ago to push into apples or oranges for Christmas. I didn’t try grating them, I’m not a masochist. My scraped fingertips blending into the gingerbread was not appealing. I got out my handy dandy electric mini chopper and poured half of them in. I ground and ground and ground. They were still sticks, just smaller. A lot smaller. They were too small now to grate for sure and too hard to use. I didn’t want to, but I got out my best coffee grinder.

I cleaned out the coffee and wiped it down carefully. I poured the chunks of cloves in and a few taps later I had ground cloves. Perfect! I decided to grind them all, so I would have some for another batch. The powder was a little damp from the clove oil but I think it will keep OK.

I added all the spices to the flour. 1 teaspoon ginger, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ΒΌ teaspoon clove powder. I added extra cinnamon and clove to cover the missing nutmeg. I stirred it into the flour and mixed it with the butter and sugar. Next, the recipe called for 1 cup boiling water and 2 teaspoons of baking powder. It was odd, but they wanted me to put the baking powder into the boiling water to see it foam. (“Make sure the children are helping at this point, they will love to see it foam up.” chirped the directions) at 60, I’m childless these days. I thought about calling in Gracie, my Black Lab to watch, but passed. I wondered how much it would foam up, because one cup of boiling water fills up my measuring cup to the top. I slightly decreased the water, added the two teaspoons and it did foam nicely and didn’t spill. I poured it in and my sticky batter became exactly what they said it would, incredibly runny. I poured it into the pan and put it in the oven.

While it baked, I cleaned up. By now, of course, 33 minutes had passed. I was missing my show, but the mess was bothering me. I first cleaned my mini electric chopper. I noticed that it was now frosted plastic half way up. Apparently the sticks had scratched the plastic pretty badly. Oh well. It was pretty oily and hard to clean. I suspect not only my onions (Here are some great onion choppers for you!), bread crumbs and celery are going to smell like cloves for awhile, my coffee is going to have a holiday flavor this month as well. It was even more difficult to clean.

I pulled out the gingerbread when the buzzer went off and was disappointed in the blonde color. Molasses apparently is what colors gingerbread that warm rich brown. It was also strangely flat. I knew it. Putting baking powder into boiling water probably killed whatever makes it rise. Shoot. It smelled good though. I cut a warm piece. Then I cut another to put on top of it. Heck, I went ahead and finished the row and put the third piece on my plate on top of the other two. Now it was the right height anyway.

I took my first heavenly bite. Where was the flavor? I could hardly taste anything. It was so bland. I tapped my fingers on the counter as I got over my disappointment. There was a tin of frosting left over from my pumpkin cake. I spread the cream cheese frosting on top and in-between the layers.

Well, it’s slightly better, but no cigar. I looked over the recipe to check my spice amounts. Correct, but I noticed it said baking soda not powder. That probably explains the flatness but I still concur that boiling the stuff has to kill whatever is in it that makes it rise.

I missed Regis and Kelly except for seeing the end where an aging Rod Stewart was singing I Got You Under My Skin. For the first time ever, he actually looked somewhat attractive. I polished off my fake gingerbread as he danced and twirled with his spiked hair and shiny silver suit. His eyes looked into mine as he crooned the last lines. Life isn’t so bad.

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