Being the gingerbread snob that I am, I was dubious about the concept of chocolate + gingerbread. I'm not one of those people who think that a handful of chocolate chips or a drizzle of chocolate improves everything. And I really don't want anyone messing with my gingerbread (or pumpkin pie, either. Remember that Thanksgiving Twofer Pie? That was just wrong.)
But this week's TWD selection was Fresh Ginger and Chocolate Gingerbread, so I put on my best game face and set out to bake it. I figured I'd serve it to my book group and
- I made a full recipe, so everyone will be relieved to know that no math is involved this week! Although I must say that I wish I'd made half a recipe.
- used 8 T butter + 3 T nonfat Greek yogurt
- For flour, I combined white flour with a white/wheat flour blend
- I used dark brown sugar
- I forgot to look for/buy stem ginger so I just left it out
- I added pinch of salt and would have added pinch of black pepper but in the end I forgot.
- I liked the technique of mixing the fresh ginger with sugar, which produced a lovely ginger-y syrup.
- Since I was using a dark silicone pan set on a dark cookie sheet, I reduced oven temp to 330. The inside was still very jiggly at 38 minutes, so I increased the oven temp to 340. It baked for around 10 min more.
- For the frosting, I didn't want to brew any coffee, so I used 1/4 tsp instant espresso + 1 T water
The cake took a lot longer to make than I anticipated, so I had to rush at the end. I brought it straight to book club (We were late) just after spreading the frosting. We served it before the frosting had fully set up, and it was harder to cut (neatly). By the next day, the frosting had hardened and the cake itself cut much smoother and neater (top picture).
The cake was beautiful, dense and moist. It held up beautifully on the counter, covered, for days.
But I found it totally disappointing in the flavor department. I love chocolate and I love gingerbread. I. do. not. love. chocolate gingerbread. at. all. But we sort of guessed that would happen, right? Let's move on to my testers, the wonderful members of the book club (and some children of the host couple).
A couple of people loved it completely
A couple people loved the cake part but thought the frosting detracted
A couple people thought "eh, not worth seconds"
1 person thought it was really intense and thought the ingredients conflicted with each other. He
suggested using semisweet instead of bittersweet chocolate - something less assertive that might complement the ginger rather than fight with it.
I gave away most of the cake to those who liked it, but kept a bit of it to photograph (let's ignore how skewed that sounds - keeping cake I don't like because I had to take pictures of it - shall we?) Over the next few days I'd periodically cut a bite for myself, thinking, "it looks so good and smells pretty yummy, maybe I'll like it this time." Although it kept promising, it never delivered. Great texture, fabulously moist, quite aromatic. At first it seems that these flavors will pop out, but then it ends up strangely bland. Like they've had a battle and canceled each other out. What was left was a moist chocolate cake with a bit of spice. (I did love the frosting however)
And although I could detect the ginger under all the chocolate, good gingerbread is all about the perfect balance of spices and not just the ginger.
Speaking of balance and canceling each other out, here's the opinion of the family that I left most of the cake with: they really loved it the second day, after it spent the night in their fridge. They said that the cold toned down the chocolate and let the gingerbread flavors come through. However, one of their sons did say, "I like gingerbread better without the chocolate." I'm with him!!
I actually brought gingerbread blondies to book club in addition to the chocolate gingerbread. So the next day I poured myself a cup of Earl Gray and ran a personal taste test of gingerbread-y goodies. The contestants and my impressions:
A) Dorie's chocolate gingerbread: no matter how hard I try, I just can't find the gingerbread flavor under the chocolate
B) Martha's gingerbread blondies, which I made without white chocolate and with extra ginger: these were soft and chewy with a mild flavor. They are fairly sturdy and easy to transport.
C) my favorite gingerbread (I had a bit left from Christmas baking): this really is the gold standard. Even 10 days old it beat the ginger off either of the others. It's not as deep and dark as Trader Joe's, nor as ginger-y as Dorie's, but it hits the right combination of spices. The streusel topping takes it to the next level.
D) Trader Joe's gingerbread mix (wasn't actually part of the taste test because I made it a few days later): it was dark and dense but was missing a strong gingerbread-y presence. But it's very easy to bake, since it's a mix and all. I'd take it over the chocolate gingerbread, and probably over the blondies.