Margaret M. Johnson"> Sugar & Spice Make Everything Nice | Arts & Leisure | Irish Echo
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Sugar & Spice Make Everything Nice

December 17, 2020

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Gingerbread Bars with Cream Cheese Icing.

 

Recipes / By Margaret M. Johnson

Gingerbread men, gingerbread houses, even the smell of ginger signals Christmas is upon us. Made from sugars and spices brought back from the Middle East by soldiers returning from the Crusades, gingerbread first appeared in central Europe in the Middle Ages. Monks baked gingerbread for religious celebrations, and the first gingerbread man is said to have originated in the court of Queen Elizabeth I who gave important visitors portraits made of ginger-flavored dough. During the nineteenth century, this sweet and spicy cake, generally made with treacle (molasses), became primarily associated with Christmas. For a new spin on this old favorite, try these updated ginger treats that are sure to please everyone! You’ll find similar Christmas recipes in my latest cookbook Teatime in Ireland. To order signed copies, visit irishcook.com.

 

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PEAR AND GINGER PUDDING

SERVES 6 TO 8

This pudding is a riff on steamed pudding and gingerbread. It starts with gooey pears on the bottom and finishes when the cake is turned upside down to reveal them as a deliciously gooey top! In between is a rich, dark, and spicy ginger cake that simply begs to be topped with whipped or clotted cream!

4 ounces unsalted butter

1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar

1 (15-ounce) can sliced or halved pears in fruit juice, drained

1/2 cup sultanas (golden raisins)

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Pinch of ground cloves

Pinch of ground nutmeg

1 large egg, beaten

1/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar

1/3 cup golden syrup, such as Lyle’s, or light corn syrup

2/3 cup milk

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Whipped or clotted cream, for serving

1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Line an 8-inch round baking pan with parchment paper.

2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 ounces of butter with brown sugar. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until butter is melted and mixture is smooth; pour into prepared pan. Arrange pears, overlapping slightly, over mixture; sprinkle with raisins. Melt remaining 2 ounces butter; set aside.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and spices.

4. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together egg and melted butter; whisk in brown sugar, treacle or corn syrup, and milk. Stir into flour mixture until blended; spoon micture over pears.

4. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into center comes out clean. Remove from oven, let cool for 15 minutes in pan, and then invert cake onto a large plate or platter.

5. To serve, cut cake into slices, dust with confectioners’ sugar, and serve warm with cream.

 

GINGERBREAD BUNDT CAKE

SERVES 10 TO 12

This beautiful cake can be served “as is” with a dollop of whipped cream or cut into cubes and used as the base of an old-fashioned trifle.

6 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups (packed) dark brown sugar

2 large eggs

1/2 cup molasses

2 1/2 cups flour

2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup water

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 10-inch Bundt pan with baking spray with flour.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or with a hand mixer), beat butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition; beat in molasses

3. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Add flour mixture to butter mixture in three additions, alternating with water; mix until combined. Transfer to prepared pan.

4. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into center comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes; loosen cake from pan and invert onto rack. Let cool completely.

 

GINGERBREAD BARS WITH CREAM CHEESE ICING

MAKES 27 BARS

The dense gingerbread bars topped with cream cheese icing are adapted from a recipe from McCormick & Company, producers of spices, herbs, seasonings, and marinades.

For the bars

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1/3 cup molasses (treacle)

3 tablespoons water

For the icing

4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

2 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1. Make bars. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 13-x 9-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, adding a 2-inch border on short sides to create handles. Coat foil with non-stick cooking spray.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or with a hand mixer), beat butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in egg; gradually beat in flour mixture until combined. Stir in molasses and water until smooth. Transfer to prepared pan; spread evenly.

4. Bake for 25 to 28 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes. Lift out of pan using foil handles; let cool completely on rack. Invert gingerbread onto a serving plate and peel off foil; return to upright.

5. Make icing. In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese, butter, sugar, lemon juice and zest with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. With an offset spatula, spread icing over gingerbread. Refrigerate for 30 to 40 minutes, or until icing is firm. Cut into 9 rows by 3 rows.

 

GINGERBREAD COOKIES

MAKES 28 TO 30

One of my family’s favorite year-round cookies were my mother’s Molasses Cookies — soft, chewy, sugar-coated treats. When it came time for Christmas though, in went the ginger, cloves and nutmeg; voila, Gingerbread Cookies — soft, chewy, sugar-coated, delicious!

For the cookies

2 1/4 cups flour

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ginger

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

6 ounces butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup molasses

1 large egg

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the sugar coating

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Make cookies. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg.

3. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or with a hand mixer), beat butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add molasses, egg and vanilla extract; mix until well combined. Slowly beat in flour mixture until smooth.

4. Make sugar coating. In a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon. Roll 1 heaping tablespoon of dough into balls and toss in cinnamon sugar. Place on prepared pans, spacing about 2 inches apart

5. Bake for 10 minutes, or until edges are just set. Transfer to a wire rack and sprinkle cookies with any remaining sugar coating while still warm. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Margaret Johnson’s “Recipes” page also includes “Ireland Hopping: Adventures in Food, Drink, and Travel.” For further details on her work, or to order a signed copy of her latest cookbook “Teatime in Ireland,” visit www.irishcook.com.

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