It’s the most —–
Stressful, crazy, fun, cocktail and sweets-filled, overindulgent, sparkly —- wonderful time of the year.
I became so excited about it today. My Christmas shopping is done and I’m almost wrapped up at the office and about to head home to Indiana. I can’t wait to cozy up in my parents library, fire blazing, glass of red wine, kenny g crooning “have yourself a merry little christmas”, book in hand, and not a worry in sight.
And yes, I’m an 80 year old man deep down inside.
I also can’t wait to get to baking. It’s so much easier and more fun in a big kitchen vs a city apartment. I also love people coming in and out, swiping a dollop of cookie dough or wanting to lick the bowl. And when the kitchen is suddenly the place to be and the guys hover around waiting for the timer to ding.
I can see (and smell) it already.
It’s hard to bake when you don’t have a lot of people around you all the time to enjoy the goods. I can take it to the office, but it’s not the same. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve given the things I’ve made to homeless people. Which I’m not discrediting at all, I’m happy to cook and give food to them. They’re the most grateful for it oftentimes but there’s something about giving baked treats to the ones you love.
I think that’s why some people love to cook – and why I likely do, it’s how I experienced love. It’s one way my mom shows people love, so it’s something I learned early on. It’s an easy thing to do with my niece and gives me a chance to teach her and spend time with her – a chance to make her proud of something she made. And as a gift for someone else, well to me – it shows that person that they’re worth of time and effort and it was made thinking that it would be a special treat. Maybe their favorite childhood dinner or favorite flavor of dessert.
So this gingerbread loaf was made with this in mind. I know everyone loves gingerbread cookies, but I think a bread can be a nice thing to give during the holiday season. It’s something they can serve as guests and family members and friends come in and out of the house. This bread pairs the gingerbread flavors with a just sweet, tart enough icing and some cranberries for holiday flair.
It’s a simple thing to bake for Christmas morning – make it a day or two ahead and store it in the fridge for the ravenous ones who need to refuel after those presents.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- 3/4 cup unsulphured or dark molasses
- 3/4 cup hot water (about 100°F)
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1/3 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Orange Icing
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 3 to 4 Tablespoons orange juice (no pulp)
- Adjust the oven rack to the lower third position and preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, salt and pepper together until combined. Set aside. In a separate bowl or dish, whisk the molasses and hot water together.
- In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy - about 1 minute. Add the brown sugar and beat on high speed for 1 minute until creamed together fairly well. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. On medium-high speed, beat in the egg and vanilla extract until combined. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the hot water/molasses and mixing each addition just until incorporated. Avoid overmixing. Batter will be thin. Whisk out any big lumps.
- Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for around 50-60 minutes or until the gingerbread loaf is baked through. All ovens are different and your loaf could take a little more or less time. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the gingerbread loaf. If it comes out clean with only a couple moist (not wet) crumbs, it is done. Allow to cool completely in the pan set on a wire rack before removing from pan.
- Make the icing: Whisk the confectioners' sugar and orange juice together. Drizzle over cooled loaf.
- Leftover loaf keeps well covered tightly in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Make ahead tip: The loaf can be baked, cooled, and covered tightly at room temperature overnight. Loaf can be frozen up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.