Gingerbread Even I Can Eat
Gluten free gingerbread that even I can eat, as it is also whole grain, and free of added sugar! And still definitely gingerbread…
“While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads”
Rich gives me a hand with some of the promotion tasks of the blog. He often sorts through posts or Pins of bloggers I know to help me find material to Share, for example. And he knows my parameters – I am willing to sometimes Pin or Yum food that I cannot myself eat, since most of my readers do not avoid gluten and/or sugar, and would still be interested in such recipes, but I generally don’t Share them on Twitter or in Facebook.
This week he said “I’m sure you’ve noticed, but everything I see right now seems to be sweet!” Well, yes… I’ve noticed… In fact, I recently started a Gluten Free Holidays Pinterest Board. When I started it at Thanksgiving it seemed to be All Stuffing, All the Time – now, it is All Cookies. People who never bake at any other time of year pull out the mixing bowls and baking pans. Even people who themselves do not eat sweets teach their grandchildren to make the sugar cookies their own mothers baked every year… Sweet baked goods are deeply rooted in the cultural traditions of Christmas for many of us. Which becomes hard if you avoid gluten (so your old recipes may not work quite right,) and harder still if you avoid sugar. And if, like me, you need to avoid both… well…
Luckily, while I have done some Christmas baking over the years, I rarely baked cake or cookies, so they were not as strongly part of my holiday. But I did make sweet breads, and coffee cake, and, well – gingerbread, in all its manifestations…
Originally, back in the Middle Ages, Gingerbread was a sweet made by mixing bread crumbs, honey, and ginger with a dusting of other spices. Over time, it transitioned in two directions. On the one hand, it can be a cookie, rolled and cut out in shapes – gingerbread men, classically, but other shapes as well. (I still have my cookie cutters…) A variant of that is the gingerbread house – usually firm rather than crisp, covered with royal icing and candy, and often not actually eaten (once it has stood around for a few weeks getting stale and dusty!)
But there is also gingerbread as a cake – moist and rich, but also surprisingly easy. Hunting down recipes, I found that in some of my antique cookbooks it was listed in the quick bread chapter, or with tea breads, rather than as a cake, which makes sense when you realize that the technique is significantly different from that of most cakes that we make. Last year, I did not feel ready yet to venture into gluten free, sugar free cake baking so I concentrated on trying to reproduce the flavor in other items – muffins and waffles. Now, much of the flavor in modern gingerbread comes from molasses, so I never could get it exactly, but I think I got pretty close.
And, well – I have more experience now with gluten free baking, and have done much more general research into it. So I ventured into it… And we ate rather pleasant ginger flavored coffee cake, and a few other variations – all nice, not quite quite gingerbread, until I added sour cream. And that was the magic… for a sugar free, gluten free gingerbread.
OK, first – to be reminiscent of the flavor of molasses, it has to be tangy as well as sweet. Teff flour helps that a lot, but I was missing something… I realized many of the old recipes called for baking soda but no acid other than the molasses. Right – acid… And some of them did call for buttermilk, and a few modern ones enriched that into sour cream… See, molasses also holds moisture, so my cake had been too dry – sour cream makes a moist product. I’d love to tell you that I’d done this without added gums, but commercial sour cream already includes stabilizers (the one I used, at least, has guar gum.) In most cases, I find that very annoying, but I suspect it did help with the texture here. It is still much less than most recipes tell you to add, so if you normally avoid gums in baking, but can eat sour cream with no issue, you should be fine.
One really interesting thing about all the old recipes is that they tell you to melt the butter. So the first thing to do is melt it, then set it aside to cool before you add it to the other ingredients. While you have the butter out, grease an 8″ square cake pan. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Now, take a medium sized mixing bowl, and mix all the dry ingredients. I used half teff flour in this, partly for the tangy flavor, and partly because that also helps the texture – teff is one of the gluten free flours that makes a slightly sticky batter, which allows it to both stretch around the bubbles caused by leavening and then hold together with a nice tender crumb. You can see how nicely that worked alone in the muffins from last year. The other half is my workhorse millet – the gluten free flour that I find most closely resembles AP flour. And, as always, I weighed the flour – it really is the only way to go with the wide variety of gluten free flours (and in fact, the preferable way to measure any flour – cup measures can vary widely.)
If, in fact, you can eat gluten, and are only interested in a sugar free gingerbread, well – first I suggest you go ahead and use the flours I did, and you’ll have a delicious whole grain cake. But if you want to use AP flour, sub it, by weight, for the millet, but still use the teff – it’s an important part of the flavor.
Then stir in the baking soda, salt, and Gingerbread Spice Blend. If you have not made up the blend – well, first, I really like having it on hand to toss in all sorts of things, so you might want to – but you can just use ginger, though you will lose some flavor. Then mix all the dry ingredients well. I like to use a whisk, it seems the most effective.
Set that aside, and mix the wet ingredients. Take a larger bowl, as all the batter will end up in this one, and beat the egg with that whisk until light and frothy. Then add, one at a time, beating until smooth after each addition, the unsweetened applesauce, sour cream, milk, and that melted butter.
Now add the dry ingredients to the wet ones, and stir well. (At this point I switch to a silicone spatula.) I always add dry to wet, since that avoids little pockets of dry ingredients at the bottom of the bowl if you chanced to miss a spot… Mix the batter until smooth, then pour into your greased baking pan, and put into the oven. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean.
Let it rest in the pan for about five minutes (it cools a little and the cake firms up) then turn it out of the pan onto a cooling rack. Do let it cool a while before eating – it is good warm, but not hot.
I serve it with whipped cream, to which I added a pinch of ginger. If I make it for guests, I’ll sweeten cream for them – I have found in the past that doing so adds just enough sweetness that those who eat, and expect, sugar are fine with my desserts… For me, there is enough sweetness from the applesauce that I know this is dessert.
Now, I’m going to be frank – you won’t mistake this for Grandma’s recipe. It can’t be exactly the same without the molasses. But it is recognizably gingerbread – moist, tender, spicy sweet… Rich does not have any of my dietary constraints, gets cake periodically at the local bakery/cafe, and he enjoys this (and has actually eaten more of it than I have…) And if you thought you were never going to eat gingerbread again – it’s amazing… (I have amused Rich no end by going around saying “I’m eating gingerbread!” It’s exciting!)
Gingerbread Even I Can Eat
- 3 T butter
- 140 g millet flour
- 140 g teff flour
- 1 t baking soda
- 1 t salt
- 2 1/2 t Gingerbread Spice Blend
- 1 egg
- 1 c unsweetened applesauce
- 1/2 c sour cream
- 1/2 c milk
- Preheat oven to 350. Grease an 8" square baking pan.
- Melt butter and set aside to cool.
- Combine dry ingredients in a bowl, and whisk to mix well.
- Beat egg in a larger bowl. Add remaining ingredients, including butter, beating until smooth after each addition.
- Pour batter into greased baking pan. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes, or until done, when a knife in the center comes out clean.
- Let rest in pan for five minutes. Turn out onto a cooling rack. Let cool at least partially before serving.