Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Gingerbread Snob Branches Out: Martha's Gingerbread Blondies and Trader Joe's Gingerbread Mix

Above: Trader Joe's Gingerbread mix baked in a pig-shaped pan!
Or: Adventures of a gingerbread purist, part 1

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 White Chocolate Double Ginger Blondies

Martha's Gingerbread Blondies in a low light photo.
n.o.e. notes:

- 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 verdict:

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

n.o.e notes:

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.

the verdict:

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


Megan said...

I can't stand white chocolate either. I don't know what it is about the stuff that just doesn't agree with me. So I think that crystallized ginger was a superb addition / substitution. I actually threw some in this weeks TWD. But, it's still great right from the package! I'm going to have a look at your gingerbread recipe, because I do love a good piece of gingerbread.

Jessica said...

I like white chocolate and I've been pondering making that blondie recipe but I'm really glad that you made it first! I made the chocolate swirl gingerbread from the Everyday Food cookbook not too long ago and I was really underwhelmed by the lack of ginger flavor in there. It's good to know ahead of time that the blondies could use an extra ginger kick. I am loving your throwdowns!

Cathy said...

This is a fun post, and I will be sure to come back and read it again in conjuction with your Dorie gingerbread post tomorrow! I've never made much gingerbread before(okay, okay, so Dorie's was the first gingerbread I EVER made)but the next gingerbread I try will be your usual recipe, given that it comes so highly recommended. Martha's blondies are certainly intriguing, though, and I would definitely try Trader Joe's for the sheer ease of the mix -- but my city has not yet "made it," as evidenced by the fact that we do not have a Trader Joe's.

Anonymous said...

The pig shaped gingerbread is so cute. I also loved the bites from the ice cube tray. I will have to try your orginal gingerbread. TWD was my first attempt at gingerbread too.

Anonymous said...

I love when you try out and post your verdicts on different recipes. It's great for those of us who are learning to bake/cook. I can't wait to see what you will try next (other than TWD, of course).

Jules Someone said...

White chocolate is an oxymoron. I hate the stuff. I have a fabulous gingersnap recipe, but I'm not quite as into gingerbread. But the blondie idea sounds good

Anonymous said...

The pig pan is awesome. White chocolate has limited usefulness and should generally be avoided. Interesting post - I am definitely not a gingerbread purist but I liked hearing about your experiments.

Maria said...

I love the pig:) Both treats look great!! I like white chocolate in things but not plain!! I don't know about in gingerbread though. Glad you left it out:)

Katrina said...

Wow, quite the tasting! I made the gingerbread blondies this Christmas and thought they were good.
I liked this Dorie "cake" too. 'I say stick with what you love, obviously.
Way to try them all! Darn cute pig mold, too!

Anonymous said...'s a gingerbread extravaganza over there this week! You are too much fun!

Karen said...

Love the little piggy! My favorite gingerbread recipe is made with Guiness.