Or: Adventures of a gingerbread purist, part 1
Above: Trader Joe's Gingerbread mix baked in a pig-shaped pan!
I've become spoiled by very good gingerbread. You could call me narrow-minded, but I prefer to think of myself as a purist. To me the best gingerbread is moist, highly spiced, and rich with molasses flavor. My usual recipe is as close to ideal as I'm ever likely to come. And this matters to me because I really, really love gingerbread.
Every now and then, however, given the plethora of recipes out there (and those assigned to me!) I'm led to try another gingerbread. This winter has brought a bounty crop of gingerbread-y recipes to my attention. While not trying a new recipe for a classic gingerbread, I did succumbed to the siren call of Martha Stewart's White Chocolate Gingerbread Blondies. I also baked up a box of Trader Joe's Gingerbread mix, which came highly recommended.
Martha's Gingerbread Blondies in a low light photo.
- I stayed pretty true to Martha's recipe with one major exception. The white chocolate. I just don't like the stuff, and I suspected it would make the blondies too sweet for me (blondies really border on excessive sweetness to begin with, imo. So I omitted the white chocolate and substituted a handful of chopped crystallized ginger instead.
- The recipe is supposed to be made on a huge baking pan. I wanted to bake just enough to check out the flavor and to bring to my book group to taste test alongside Dorie's chocolate gingerbread (which will be posted on Tuesday). I made 1/3 recipe, which fit perfectly in a toaster oven tray (an 8x8 baking dish is also 1/3 of the 11x17 rimmed baking sheet Martha specifies.)
- I thought that the recipe called for relatively little ginger
- I combined white flour with a white/wheat flour blend
- I used dark brown sugar + light brown - more dark than light
- I'm pretty sure I substituted some plain nonfat Greek yogurt for some of the butter, but I can't find that in my notes.
The blondies turned out soft and chewy and not overly sweet - I'm really glad I didn't use the white chocolate. The chopped crystallized ginger added texture and a stronger ginger flavor, but even with the ginger boost, the blondies didn't taste very gingerbread-ish to me. However they were a hit with all of my tasters; young and old.
Trader Joe's Deep Dark Gingerbread
This mix is easy, easy, easy.
I baked the gingerbread in a "good luck pig" silicone cake pan that I bought in a German Christmas market and in a silicone ice cube tray. I thought it would be cool to have little rectangular cake-bites. As it turned out, the ice cube tray baked as a whole cake not as individual ones - no doubt because there wasn't any air between the compartments as there is in a muffin tin. So the middle squares rose higher and took longer to bake.
The cakes took awhile to bake - close to 30 minutes, I'd guess. I just kept adding 3 minutes to the timer and checking until it was done.
This gingerbread is very dense and dark. And moist. It tasted more of molasses than of gingerbread spices. There was a bit of a spicy note there, however. With a streusel topping or with whipped cream (or both?), this mix is a solid option; a nice payoff for a little bit of work. I'll have to say that it doesn't come close to the perfection of my usual recipe, but it will be great to have around in a baking pinch.
My husband, who is allergic to chocolate, really liked this gingerbread, finding it very reminiscent of a chocolate cake.
little bites o' gingerbread baked in an ice cube tray