It’s that time of year – the time for gingerbread

I’ve got gingerbread on the mind. It’s just that time of year.

The time of year when fall’s chilly winds begin to blow and the leaves begin their lazy descent to the earth. The time of year for sweaters, and hot toddies, and pumpkin carving. The time of year scented by clove, cinnamon, and spicy ginger.

The time of year for gingerbread.

And I’m not talking about those hard, flat little men with their blank, staring eye dots and their sinister, frozen smiles. I’m talking about warm, cake-y squares, quite possibly with a little bourbon whipped cream dripping off the top into a puddle on the plate. Gingerbread like my grandmother used to make. Gingerbread whatever was gingerbread.

Granny’s recipe came from her high school Home Economics cookbook, The Principles of Cooking: A Textbook in Domestic Science written by Emma Conley and published in 1914, just 5 years before Granny graduated. Granny kept this book and referred to it throughout her entire life, but most especially in the fall when she made gingerbread.

As much as I loved Granny’s gingerbread, a few years ago another recipe caught my eye. Would it be as good? Could it replicate the gingerbread perfection I was so used to? Would Granny start spinning in her grave if she knew I favored an Emeril Lagasse recipe over hers?

Well I’m not going to tell you which one I like best. I’ll let you decide for yourself. But I will tell you this  — whichever you choose, you’ll never be able to look a mere cookie in the eye dot again.

Granny’s Gingerbread
(Reproduced here exactly as it was in the original text.)

Cream one half cup of shortening (butter, lard, one half butter and one half lard, or oleomargarine), add one half cup of sugar and work the shortening and sugar together. Add one cup of molasses, two well-beaten eggs, and one cup of sour milk alternately with three cups of flour, one half teaspoon soda, and one teaspoon of ginger, and one fourth teaspoon of salt sifted together. Beat well. Bake in a buttered shallow pan in hot oven, for thirty minutes.

Emeril Lagasse’s Gingerbread

1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup turbinado sugar (recommended: Sugar in the Raw)
3 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup molasses
1 cup Guinness, or other dark beer
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13 by 9-inch cake pan and line with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, cloves, and nutmeg. In a third bowl, combine the molasses and beer and stir to dissolve. Add the dry ingredients and beer mixture alternately to the egg mixture, beating after the addition of each.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake until puffed and set, about 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan on a wire rack. Cut the gingerbread into 12 equal portions and place on plates. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and serve.

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