You can always tell which recipes are my most cherished, the foods I couldn’t fathom living without. They hide on the pages of my cookbooks that look too tarnished to be good; they are the recipes that are crinkled and covered in fingerprints, with bent corners; they are the ones whose words have been taped back into place, recovering from the spilled ingredients that once stuck them together. This, my friends, is one of those recipes.
Christmas is represented by a variety of different things to different people. It could be hand-holding on ice rinks. Or gift-giving. Or the hustling and bustling of consumerism. It might mean warm, cracked chestnuts shared on cobblestone streets. But for me, nothing encapsulates the season more than the slow rush of molasses drizzling from the bottle as I stand, aproned and warm at my kitchen counter, baking up something spiced and sweet.
Nigella’s prescription for Chocolate Gingerbread tastes like the best molasses-anything you will ever chance to meet. Rarely do I find a recipe that requires the kind of trust that this one demands. First, I found myself doubtfully warming the wet ingredients on my stovetop, completely uncomprehending of what could possibly result (because baking is science and science is supposed to make sense?). Had it not been for the densely spiced wafts of gingerbread air beckoning from the warmth of the oven, I would have abandoned this project almost entirely in the middle of it. Thank goodness I didn’t. And thank goodness for Nigella.
One Year: Avocado Horiatiki Salad
Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Feast
Makes about 12 slabs
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup plus 2 tbsp dark brown sugar
2 tbsp superfine sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup molasses
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp warm water
1 cup milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup milk
chocolate shavings (optional)
CAKE: Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and line a 9 x 13 x 2 (or something close to this) pan. In a decent-sized saucepan, melt butter along with sugars, syrup, molasses, cloves, cinnamon, and ground ginger. In a cup dissolve the baking soda in the water. Take the saucepan off the heat and beat in the eggs, milk, and baking soda-water mixture. Stir in the flour and cocoa and beat with a wooden spoon to mix. Fold in the chocolate chips and pour the mixture into the lined pan to bake for about 45 minutes, until risen and firm. It will be slightly damp underneath with a set top, but that’s the way you want it. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack.
FROSTING: Sift the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa and whisk to combine. Beat in the butter and the milk. Spread liberally atop the gingerbread, then sprinkle with a healthy dose of chocolate shavings, if using. After the icing has set, cut into fat slabs and serve.