I love my job! I'm not saying it is easy. Anyone who works in the cookbook business will tell you that it is creative, fun, interesting, challenging, inspriing...but easy, it ain't. My clients are a very diverse group, and I've cooked with everyone from fashion guru Lilly Pulitzer to the lovely Lisa Oz, a couple of TV's most notorious housewives, and some incredible singers who just happen to be incredible cooks. (I'm thinking Frankie Avalon and Patti LaBelle.) For the holidays, I am going to sneak-preview this recipe from the fabulous Miss LaBelle for her wonderful gingerbread, to be featured in Desserts LaBelle, coming out in April 2017. Because, come on, we all love a little spiced gingerbread at this time of year. Read on...
Patti's Moist and Spicy Gingerbread with Warm Apple Compote
Makes 12 servings
When the weather is chilly, few desserts are as satisfying as a chunk of warm gingerbread, right from the oven. This is a classic recipe baked in a sheet pan, deliciously moist and filled with the flavors of spice and molasses. Although it is fantastic plain, perhaps topped with ice cream or whipped cream, you can gild the lily with some warm sautéed apples. It make a large gingerbread, you might want to keep this in mind for a party. (The batter can also be baked in a 10- to 12-cup decorative tube pan for 50 minutes to 1 hour. If you care to make it that way, butter the pan and sprinkle the inside with dried plain bread crumbs, and not flour. This trick guarantees that the sticky cake will come out of the pan.)
Softened butter and flour, for the pan
2½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup molasses (not blackstrap)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 Golden Delicious or other cooking apple, peeled, cored, and cut into ½-inch wedges
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Confectioner’s sugar, for garnish
Vanilla ice cream, for serving
1. To make the gingerbread: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter and flour a 9 by 13-inch baking pan, tapping out the excess flour.
2. Sift the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and salt together. Beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl with an electric mixer set at high speed until the mixture is light in color and texture, about 3 minutes. Gradually beat in the molasses. One at a time, beat in the eggs, beating well after each addition. In thirds, with the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture, alternating with two additions of the hot water. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
3. Bake until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire cake rack for 15 minutes.
4. While the gingerbread is baking, make the compote: Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the apples and cook, stirring only occasionally, until they are lightly browned and crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle in the brown sugar and 2 tablespoons water, and mix well until the sugar is melted. Stir in the cinnamon. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for 15 to 30 minutes. The compote should be warm, not piping hot. Transfer to a serving bowl.
5. Sift confectioner’s sugar over the top of the gingerbread. Cut the gingerbread into serving pieces and transfer to dessert plates. Top each with a spoonful of the compote and a scoop of ice cream, and serve.
Patti’s Pointers: Why does this gingerbread (and other antique recipes) call for boiling water? Back in the day, the baking soda was not pulverized well, and the hot liquid helped it to dissolve. These days, you can really get away with hot tap water.