Gingerbread, On Demand

Here’s a moist comforting gingerbread that tastes of winter and warm spices—so good it should not be relegated solely to the holidays. The fact that it bakes in only two minutes should give you even more good reasons to have it freshly baked on demand, for round the clock availability.

The genesis of this tasty gingerbread, comes from Dina Cheney’s great little cookbook Mug Meals, Delicious Microwave Recipes. Her book helps us to consider new applications for the microwave beyond popcorn, warming a quick beverage, or reheating leftovers. It’s loaded with clever tips and recipes for creating real food with minimal muss or fuss—of particular interest to anyone involved in small space living, those faced with eating on the run, or fellow adventurers who just love playing with their food.

One of the biggest issues in microwave baking concerns the lack of browning and low eye appeal.  Bread without a golden brown crust just isn’t the same; neither are cakes with rough and bumpy tops.  Instead of starring at a pock marked cake surface or hiding it under a streusel topping, I opt to turn the gingerbread on its head—to invert and set it bottom side up.gingerbread-blog

Rather than the original huge mugful of gingerbread we end up with 3 or 4 smaller charming cakes that are nice enough for company.  Thanks to IKEA, individual silicone molds hold up perfectly in the microwave; with their stylized shapes, any bottoms simply disappear.  Small soufflé dishes will also work beautifully.mis-en-plas

There’s plenty of flavor going on here: warm spices and molasses for depth of flavor, citrusy marmalade and spicy apple butter all add distinct layers.  Nice enough for the holidays, these personal portions are a lovely addition at breakfast or pretty as an afternoon snack with tea. For an easy dessert, add a spoonful of Pear Butter or a creamy Custard Sauce.

Gingerbread Mini Cakes, Two Minute

Inspired by  Mug Meals, Delicious Microwave Recipes by Dina Cheney

Ingredients
7 tablespoons all-purpose flour (or any combo such as: 1 T cake, 1 T whole wheat, 1 T buckwheat, 4 T all-purpose
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon crystallized ginger, chopped, or 2 tablespoons currants or golden raisins (optional)
1 egg
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 heaping tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon apple butter
1 tablespoon marmalade
1 tablespoon milk
Non-stick cooking spray

Directions

  1. Spray 4 – 3 oz. silicone baking molds or 3 – 4 oz. soufflé cups with non-stick spray.
  2. On wax paper or in small bowl measure in flour. A combination is nice, cake flour especially aids in texture and rising.  Add baking soda, salt and spices.  Combine well.  Add the candied ginger or dried fruit and toss to dust with flour.
  3. In 2 cup measure or small bowl, beat the egg with a fork, then beat in the oil. Add the molasses, apple butter, marmalade, and milk to combine.
  4. Pour the dry into liquid ingredients and gently stir with a spoon, don’t over mix.
  5. Spoon batter into molds to half fill, they will rise a lot. Set them on an ovenproof plate; cover lightly with wax paper and bake in microwave on high about 1 minute, until they are puffed and fully risen.  Carefully remove the paper and check.
  6. Return molds to oven without paper and continue to cook the interiors, about 1 minute longer, depending on oven. Check every 20 seconds until the centers are nearly firm and tops are set but still moist; they will continue cooking after removal from oven. Cool briefly to firm up.  Carefully run a thin knife around edges to release and turn out to cool further.  Yield:  3-4 cakes, depending on mold.

Pear-Gingerbread Dutch Baby

If you haven’t had your fill of gingerbread yet, here’s an easy breakfast or sweet treat that should do the trick with very little effort.

Pear-Gingerbread Dutch Baby
Pear-Gingerbread Dutch Baby

This oven pancake is similar to the old-fashioned Dutch Baby, made famous by Oregon’s own James Beard, a legendary cook who recognized and promoted the 20th century American food movement.  Both Jim and Julia Child were big believers in educating home cooks in the value and use of fresh local foods and neither would shy away from generous amounts of cream or butter. By today’s standards, many of Beard’s dishes may seem heavy-handed, but he innately knew how and what makes food really shine.

In many ways the Dutch Baby is a crepe on steroids. In this case we use the blender to quickly blend the basic egg, flour, and milk concoction along with a mild blend of traditional flavorings:  molasses, a bit of brown sugar, and a hint of warm spices.

In a waiting hot skillet, we begin by quickly softening pears or apples in a bit of the pan’s butter. The batter is poured over the fruit into the hot skillet—to give it a quick start—and then it’s popped into the oven to continue baking and rising.

Much like a soufflé, once removed from the oven it also deflates fairly quickly, as well.  But that will not affect the flavor or the end result of this delicious baby.  It is even good with cranberry chutney and a slight drizzle of agave nectar.Ginger Baby cut up

Pear Gingerbread Dutch Baby

Inspired by a Smitten Kitchen recipe by Deb Perelman

1         ripe pear or large apple, cored and sliced, skin optional
2         tbsps butter, divided
2         lrg eggs
1         tbsp dark brown sugar
1         tsp unsulfured molasses
1/3      cup all purpose flour
1/4       tsp baking powder
1/4      tsp cinnamon
1/4      tsp ground ginger
1/4      tsp ground allspice
1/8      tsp salt
1/3      cup milk
To finish: confectioners’ sugar, maple syrup, or heavy cream

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a blender, beat the egg until pale and light.  Add all ingredients through milk, but not butter, and blend well.
  3. In a 9” skillet over medium heat, warm 1-2 tsp butter and swirl up sides to coat the pan; add the sliced pears to the hot skillet, cooking just to release juices, 1-2 minutes.  Arrange the pears spoke-style in the pan with narrowest ends toward the center.  Increase heat to medium-high, add remaining butter around edges and pour the batter into the hot skillet.  Bake in hot oven 15-20 minutes.   Serves 2.
  4. Slide onto a platter and dust with confectioner’s sugar.  Serve with syrup or heavy cream.