Sunday, October 14, 2007

does gingerbread need molasses?

Here's the question. Many gingerbread recipes have molasses in them, but do they benefit from it? or do they end up really molasses cookies, with a little ginger flavor? I made gingerbread, and it's delicious, don't get me wrong. But when my DD tasted it her first response was, huh. Now this is not what a baker is hoping will come out of the first bite for her afternoon's labors. Then she said, "is this gingerbread? Cuz I was just wondering". Again, not the desired response. Probing and patience revealed that she did like it - she ate two pieces - but that she had been confused about what it was. Apparently it tasted like, you guessed it, molasses. DH said that it is good but he prefers the "other gingerbread".*

So, why the confusion? There's a fascinating history of gingerbread here. Essentially, gingerbread in its many iterations from flat and crispy to cakey and soft, has been baked in Europe for centuries. When immigrants arrived in America they brought their recipes with them, but adapted them to local ingredients. Since sugar was rare and expensive in the early colonies, cooks substituted other sweeteners. In Northern New England, it was made with maple syrup as sweetener, and in the south with sorghum molasses. For some reason, those southern cooks seem to have been more convincing than the Vermonters, and molasses as a component of gingerbread stuck.

The interesting thing about this is the freedom it gives you to experiment. Try brown sugar, or honey, or if you are feeling flush, maple syrup. Ironic that what was once an inexpensive substitute for sugar is now the exact opposite.

I think tomorrow I will try making it more gingery - maybe some fresh ginger grated in, and maybe some crystallized ginger too. and a new bottle of ground ginger to replace the antique from the box where the baking goods are STILL stored.

*translation - the one without molasses

1 comment:

wyatteal said...

did you give it another go? And?