The holidays are a time to fill your house with sweet, traditional smells-and for me, gingerbread is THE holiday food. It’s the only time of year I make it-which is silly, because gingerbread is easy!
Smithsonian.com says gingerbread appears to have first been made in Asia or the eastern Mediterranean. It shows up in Western European food chronicles after the 11th century crusaders returned from that area. It was a favorite at festivals and fairs in medieval Europe and was often shaped to look like kings, knights, flowers, or armor. Colonists brought gingerbread to the new world-George Washington’s mother is apparently credited with one of the first recipes.
I needed something Christmasy for a recent church bake sale-and I only had about a two-hour window for baking. So, with no time for anything fancy, I settled on this recipe. It contains lots of lovely holiday spices, a fair amount of molasses and no sugar! It’s meant to be made in loaf pans, although I am sure you could make it into cookies by adding additional flour until you have a rather thick dough and allowing to harden up a bit in the refrigerator before rolling it out. It comes from the Boston Cooking School Cookbook of 1896.
Note: When looking at the photos, please keep in mind that I made a triple batch… so my mixing bowl looks like it’s about to overflow! The recipe printed below makes just one batch.
• 1/3 cup butter
• 2/3 cup boiling water
• 1 cup molasses
• 1 egg, well beaten
• 3 cups flour
• 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1 teaspoon ground ginger
• ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
Melt the butter in the boiling water in a large mixing bowl.
Add the molasses and egg and stir until combined.
In a separate bowl, mix the remaining dry ingredients together until well-sifted.
Add gradually to the liquid until all are well combined.
Pour batter into a greased pan. I used a loaf pan but for one of the three batches, I divided the dough into four mini-bundt pans.
Bake at 350 degrees until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the bread comes out clean. For the mini-bundt pans, it took 25 minutes of baking and I left the regular bread loaf pans in for 55 minutes.
Allow to cool before removing from pans. Garnish and enjoy!