I've had this food blog for 9 months, and have been keeping this favorite morsel from you all the while. If you'll forgive me and read on, I think we can patch things up.
My mom used to make this Silver Palate recipe--it was often her go-to dessert when company came over. I've been making it, in her kitchen or mine, since my early teens. My sister makes it too. When I pour the boiling water over the batter, stirring it to golden smoothness, I have almost overwhelming physical memories of all the other times I've done it. If you've followed along with In Praise of Leftovers for any length of time, you've no doubt noticed my irrepressible streak of sentimentality. Food does that--reminds us of every other time we've eaten it, all the things we used to do and the people we used to be.
And gingerbread reminds me of my girlhood neighbor, Mrs. Owen. Food writers have been accused of being "wheezy memoirists," and these are the kinds of stories that give us a bad name. But I have to tell it anyway. If you skip forward to the recipe, I won't be offended.
Mrs. Owen was 92, living in a big old turn of the century house by herself, with a daily caregiver and cook named Nancy Drew (no joke). I read to her once a week when I was in middle school. She'd sit in her favorite chair, all dolled up for the occasion, and have me read National Geographic features or The Incredible Journey. She loved stories about animals, and one of her cats would curl up on her lap as I read. She'd pat my hands and kiss my cheeks, and always, always have Nancy make something for my visit. We'd have Minute Maid orange juice (which Mrs. Owen adored) and often, gingerbread. At first, she'd attempt to serve it herself, pulling down her ancient china plates and barely making it into the living room, forks clattering the whole way. I convinced her to let me, finally, and we'd sit there with our orange juice and gingerbread, the most unlikely pair in the world.
I marvel at that 12-year old self sometimes. Loretta turns three today, and I have no idea if she'll be the sort of girl to read to her elderly neighbors. I hope so. If gingerbread is involved, it's quite likely.
Gingerbread with Meyer Lemon Glaze
From The Silver Palate Cookbook, the first cookbook I bought in college. The simple glaze is lemon juice and powdered sugar, poured over the hot cake and turning sticky as it cools. I used Meyer lemons since they're around right now, but you can use conventional ones with the same delicious results. I always eat this with whipped cream, but you don't need to. Without it, it makes a wonderful breakfast. I made this for a weeknight dinner with our friends Derek and Amity this week. After all these years, it's still my go-to dessert.
1 1/2 c. flour
1 1/4 ts. baking soda
1 1/2 ts. ground ginger
3/4 ts. ground cinnamon
3/4 ts. salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. molasses
1/2 c. boiling water
1/2 c. vegetable oil
For lemon glaze:
2/3 c. powdered sugar
4 Tb. fresh Meyer lemon or lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350 and butter an 8" square baking pan.
Sift dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Add eggs, sugar, and molasses, and mix well. Pour boiling water and oil over mixture. Stir thoroughly until smooth.
Pour batter into prepared pan. Set on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes , or until top springs back when touched and the edges have pulled away slightly from the sides of the pan.
While gingerbread is baking, make glaze. Sift powdered sugar into a bowl, add lemon juice, and mix well.
While gingerbread is still hot, poke small holes with a toothpick all over cake. Pour glaze over the cake and cool in the pan.
Serves with lightly sweetened whipped cream, if you like.