Chase away winter chill with warm, spicy gingerbread

Strictly speaking I’m not one for following recipes. I can’t think of many times in the last few years that I have reproduced something as written. There are two primary reasons I go rogue. I either want to reduce the amount of calories and fat or I would like to use items already in my kitchen. Sometimes the later accomplishes the former and vice versa. For this recipe I made an exception.

All this month I have been enjoying mug after mug of sweet and spicy tea. With every fresh brew, one little word has been nagging away at me — Gingerbread. If I were to get really serious with myself I would have to admit this tea could be bad news. It has become a gateway indulgence, weakening my resolve to exercise restraint leading up to Christmas. But denial is not a bad place to hang out as long as I know that’s where I’m spending my time. (That, by the way, is the denial talking.)

I read about this particular gingerbread on The Family Feed. Before I got to the recipe I could feel little bits of moisture on the corners of my lips. The little devil on my shoulder began dancing a jig and singing, “Cake! Make that cake!”

The recipe turned out to be a really simple collection of the exact flavors I was craving — brown sugar, molasses, a pile of fresh ginger, and an all-star lineup of warm winter spices. Nearly every ingredient was ready and waiting in my kitchen and a carton of buttermilk was easily obtained. Although truth be told I didn’t follow the original recipe as written. I cut the entire thing in half. It was a concession to the little food angel on my shoulder and a means to stretch my ingredients.

I have now made three batches of this delicious treat. The first batch of gingerbread was paired with the first trial of Tea Poached Pears. They were made to go together. I discovered later that David Lebovitz agrees. His poached pear recipe ends with a recommendation to serve them along a slice of gingerbread. I take that as a sign I am headed in the right direction.

The recipe as written has some really great qualities. I was excited that it uses only whole wheat flour so the cake has a great heartiness. Utilizing fresh grated ginger in place of the usual ground spice brightly balances the sweet molasses and brown sugar. Also, there is no oil, just butter. Except the amount of butter and brown sugar once again sent the little angel all aflutter. I removed just a bit of both from the recipe, made the gingerbread in a 9 1/2 springform and served it in 16 pieces. Topped off with a smear of Lightened Orange-Cream Cheese frosting, this gingerbread deserves a kiss on the mouth. The little Nagging-Devil and the Voice-of-Reason Angel have been singing carols of peace on Earth and goodwill toward dessert all week.

Gingerbread

Moist, sweet, hearty, and laced with spices to chase the winter chill away. This gingerbread is everything you could ask of this traditional holiday treat. The ingredients that go into this gingerbread are modest and simple but they are not inherently light. The key to making this a light dessert lies in the way you portion the servings. Recipe, ever so slightly adapted, from The Family Feed.

A 9.5-inch springform pan yields 16 servings. A 9 x 5 loaf pan yields 10 large slices or bisect the loaf for 20 servings.

Ingredients

1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground all spice

1 tablespoon grated ginger root

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup unsulphured molasses

2 large eggs

Method

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare your choose pan by lining the bottom with parchment paper and brushing a little of the melted butter around the sides.

2. Pour vanilla into the buttermilk and set aside.

3. Whisk together dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and allspice. Stir in grated ginger.

4. Use an electric stand or hand mixer and a medium bowl to combine the brown sugar and melted butter. Mix on medium speed, scraping sides as needed until butter and sugar are fully blended and the color lightens.

5. Add the eggs one at a time. Mix at low speed and fully combine each egg before moving on.

Continue on low speed and add the molasses.

6. Increase mixer to medium speed. Alternately add the flour and buttermilk. Add the flour in thirds so it is the first and last addition. Mix until the batter is a uniform color.

7. Pour completed batter into the prepared pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 45-50 minutes until the center is firm and a probe or toothpick can be inserted and come out clean. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes before turning the loaf out to cool on a wrack. Allow loaf to cool completely before frosting the top.

8. Gingerbread will keep up to a week wrapped and refrigerated.

Per 1/10 serving: calories 263, fat 9.5 g, carbohydrates 48 g, fiber 2 g, protein 4 g, PP = 8

Per 1/16 serving: calories 165, fat 6 g, carbohydrates 30 g, fiber 1.5 g, protein 2.6 g, PP = 5

Per 1/20 serving: calories 132, fat 4.8 g, carbohydrates 24 g, fiber 1.2 g, protein 2.1 g, PP = 4

Light Cream Cheese Frosting

A smear of sweet cream cheese frosting is the perfect topping for a loaf of hearty gingerbread, or anything else for that mater! This recipe makes enough to cover up to 3 loaves.

Yield: approximately 32 1 tablespoon servings.

Ingredients

1 8 oz package of Neufchatel cheese (1/3 reduced fat cream cheese), at room temperature

3/4 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method

1. Allow Neufchatel to soften by warming to room temperature.

2. Use an electric mixer to blend all the ingredients until fluffy.

3. Smear modestly over Gingerbread and sprinkle with bits of Crystalized Gingerbread.

Store frosting in the refrigerator.

Per serving: calories 29, fat 1.7 g, carbohydrates 3 g, fiber 0, protein .7 g, PP = 1

Variations:

• Reduce vanilla to 1/2 teaspoon and stir in 1-2 teaspoons of fresh orange zest.

• For a little more creaminess and a slightly stiffer frosting, blend 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter into frosting.

Per serving with butter: calories 36, fat 2.4 g, carbohydrates 3 g, fiber 0, protein .7, PP = 1

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