Monday, December 1, 2014

Gingerbread Weather

"It's fruitcake weather, Buddy" says the central character in Truman Capote's beautiful and poignant story A Christmas Memory. Well, I don't make fruitcake so I will paraphrase slightly and say, with the same amount of glee, "It's gingerbread weather!" Of course, a snowy winter wonderland would be lovely. But here in Los Angeles a cool and rainy day can be described as gingerbread weather. Today everyone is excited because this is our winter. We are celebrating the rainy weather not just because it feels cozy, but also because California has been in an historic drought for three years. Rain is what we desperately need. And, since it is the first day of December, there is even more to celebrate as we head into the holiday season.

Inspired by the cozy weather, I took out my holiday cookbooks and decided to challenge myself to a month of holiday cooking. There are 24 days to go and I will try to make all my favorites. The first recipe will be gingerbread, a dish that for me has the Proustian power of a Madeleine cookie. Just smelling it takes me back to childhood Christmases. Gingerbread is a nostalgic, homey dessert that I absolutely love and baking up a batch just feels right on a cold winter day. 

The ingredients are luscious and redolent of the holiday season: cinnamon, ginger, cloves, brown sugar, molasses and butter. When I noticed that the recipe also called for a cup of freshly brewed coffee and that is exactly what I had left in my coffee pot this morning, the decision was made. I would make gingerbread on the first day of December.

My recipe is from Sara Foster's wonderful cookbook The Foster's Market Cookbook. She is the creator of Foster's Markets in Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Prior to opening her stores she worked alongside Martha Stewart in the kitchen of Martha's catering business. Her cookbooks feature recipes for the most popular dishes from her specialty stores. This gingerbread is served all day long in her restaurant -- for breakfast, tea, and even dessert topped with whipped cream. It's sweet and also spicy. The recipes calls for black pepper and dry mustard.

Besides the ginger, the key ingredient to gingerbread is molasses which gives the mixture its gorgeous color 

The flour and spice mixture gets added to the wet ingredients  

Two loaf pans filled with batter ready to go into the oven

They bake for 40-45 minutes and fill the house with the most wonderful smell

Is there any happier sight than a plate of gingerbread and a cup of hot cocoa?

My kitchen -- December, 2012

For me, the holidays are about hearth and home and the kitchen is at the center of it all. This is where I will be spending most of December. A loaf of gingerbread or a tin of cookies wrapped up and tied with a pretty ribbon and a sprig of holly makes a heartfelt gift. What could be sweeter than a gift from the kitchen?

  What are your favorite holiday foods to cook at this time of the year?
Is there a book or story you read every holiday season? 


Sweet and Spicy Gingerbread

3 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (I used 1/4 teaspoon)
12 tablespoons (1 and 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 and 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 and 1/2 cups molasses
1 cup brewed strong coffee, cooled

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease and flour two 9 by 5 by 3-inch loaf pans and set aside. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, mustard and pepper in a large bowl and stir to mix. Cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Slowly add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the molasses to the butter mixture in a slow, steady stream while continuing to beat. Add the coffee, and continue to beat until all the ingredients are well blended. Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir just until all the dry ingredients are moist and blended. Do not overmix. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans and place on the center rack of the oven. Bake 40 to 45 minutes , until the bread rises and springs back lightly when pressed and a toothpick inserted in the center of each loaf comes out clean. Let rest for 10 - 15 minutes before removing from the pans. Serve warm or place on a baking rack to cool. 



  1. Love your yellow Kitchen AID Blender!That is the color of my kitchen.Yes, cooking up a storm......this time of year.Cant say I have one favorite thing to make as most I do not eat as I can't GLUTEN problem!One year I did a bunch of dinner parties...........that was fun......Lots of work but fun.Small groups of people.I tend to do the dinner thing more then just baking.........BUT YOUR right its a good time to be in the kitchen!

    1. Your kitchen must be beautiful! I love that color. Enjoy the holidays!

  2. Mmmm,love ginger bread days,certainly one here today in the UK,bitterly cold north wind,so me and the dogs are hugging the log burner :).Have never tried it with hot chocolate,always with tea.Happy December.

    1. I hope you are staying warm and enjoying the season.Tea is my favorite also, but hot cocoa was my favorite as a child. Love the image of the dogs staying close to the fireplace!

    2. I hope you are staying warm and enjoying the season.Tea is my favorite also, but hot cocoa was my favorite as a child. Love the image of the dogs staying close to the fireplace!

  3. Sunday, I can imagine the delicious aroma wafting through your home. I love gingerbread. Enjoy your Christmas baking.

  4. Very nice! I made gingerbread for the first time this weekend after reading Laurie Colwin's essay (ode, really) on gingerbread in Home Cooking. Delicious and absolutely perfect for the first snowy weekend of the year here.

    1. Claire, you sent me straight to my bookcase where I found the essay by Laurie Colwin. What a gem!

  5. The house must have smelled glorious! A cup of tea couldn't have been far behind...

  6. Your gingerbread looks simply fabulous! I can't wait to try making it myself. Gingerbread weather, indeed it is! I love your gorgeous Christmas china too.

  7. Gingerbread reminds me of childhood, too, as it is one of my dad's favorite holiday treats. He always eats it in a bowl with milk poured over it as he did when he was a child. I want to try your recipe - it sounds delicious!
    I love to read 'A Christmas Memory' during the holidays and this year I bought the new Penguin Christmas Classic by Anthony Trollope, 'Christmas at Thompson Hall'. I look forward to reading it and to making Christmas cookies to give to family and friends.

    1. Anbolyn, thank you so much for the tip about "Christmas at Thompson Hall." I am ordering it tomorrow! Christmas cookies are next for me also. Enjoy the holiday season!

  8. I've never thought of adding mustard, sounds good! I have been baking gingerbread men all day, it felt like a gingerbread production line!

  9. The gingerbread & hot chocolate photo makes my mouth water. Yum! You are reminding me that I have fallen out if the habit of my annual tradition of reading a heart warming (some would say sappy) Christmas book to get in the holiday spirit - Perhaps "Christmas at Thomson Hall" for me too!