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Gingerbread with Spiced Rum Crème Anglaise

December 17, 2010

Gingerbread with Spiced Rum Creme Anglaise
Last night, Quincy came home with a Christmas tree. We had long rationalized not getting one, due primarily to budgetary constraints and holiday travel plans, but when he came across a tree lot reject lying on the sidewalk, I guess he couldn’t resist. After gathering enough chutzpah to bring it home on the subway, carrying it up three flights of stairs, and wrestling it into a makeshift stand (read: salad bowl and c-clamps), I’d say he just about made my week. It’s about 5 feet, surprisingly fragrant for a sidewalk cast-off, and despite a slightly spindly profile on one side (easily disguised against the wall), it’s really pretty charming. I guess the way to this girl’s heart is through a miniature evergreen. Who knew?

Speaking of holiday spirit, Christmas trees and the like, it seems a good time to discuss gingerbread. Although it’s most closely associated with December festivities, it’s a good treat to carry you right through the cold-weather season, packing enough spice to warm you through and through. It’s probably best consumed in a leather wing chair by a crackling fire, basset hound curled at your feet, but if you live in a 3rd floor walk-up apartment, sans fireplace (and a strict no-dog policy), you just have to use your imagination.

Gingerbread in a Puddle of Delicious

Regardless, gingerbread is pretty cozy stuff, perfect with a cup of tea, or transformed into a dinner party-worthy dessert with a little homemade whipped cream, or better yet, a few spoonfuls of boozy, rich Crème Anglaise. For a dinner party last weekend, I chose the latter topping-‐literally meaning “English Creme,” this simple custard sauce (also the basis for ice cream!) is a good one to have in your back pocket. It’s a little fancy, and as long as you have a wee bit of courage, about 10-15 minutes to concentrate, a few simple ingredients, you’re already 80% there. In this instance, I’m using rum to flavor the sauce, along with a bit of sea salt to heighten the flavors, but really, you could use any liquor, citrus zest, or other flavoring to suit your taste.

Enjoy, and of course, Happy Holidays!

Lynne’s Dark and Moist Gingerbread (adapted, barely, from the Splendid Table, and corresponding cookbook “The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper”)

2 cups, less 2 tablespoons, all-purpose unbleached flour
1 generous teaspoon baking soda
Generous 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup dark molasses
3/4 cup very hot water
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2-3/4 cup chopped uncrystallized ginger, chopped into small pieces and tossed with a teaspoon or two of flour*

Generously grease and and flour an 8-inch square baking pan and preheat oven to 350°F. Sift dry ingredients and spices into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, beat the melted butter, molasses, and water together (don’t fret: mixture will be very liquid-y). Add the egg, then quickly incorporate the dry ingredients, starting with a whisk, and finishing with a rubber spatula as batter thickens, stopping as soon as batter is smooth. Fold in ginger. Pour into the prepared pan and bake 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan. Serve warm, or allow to cool and wrap tightly with plastic wrap to retain moisture. The cake can stick around, tightly wrapped, for a few days, and also freezes beautifully.

*I found my ginger chunks at Trader Joe’s. I just chopped them a bit, then used flour to prevent the chunks from sinking in the batter. Crystallized ginger would also be lovely.

Spiced Rum Creme Crème Anglaise
yield: about 1 cup

2 egg yolks
1 1/2 tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
just shy of 1 cup half & half
1/2-1 tbsp. dark spiced rum, or more, depending on your taste
a hefty pinch of sea salt

In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla. Reserve. Heat the half and half in a saucepan, until just boiling. Remove from heat, allow to cool very slightly, then whisk a small amount of the hot liquid into the yolk mixture to temper-‐ adding it too quickly will cause the eggs to scramble and, well, you’ll have to start over. Continue whisking in the half and half slowly, whisking constantly. When all of the liquid has been incorporated, transfer the mixture back into the saucepan and SLOWLY bring up temperature to about 170°F (it may be helpful to use a candy thermometer, particularly for your first try), whisking to prevent curds from forming on the bottom. When adequately heated, a line will hold when you draw your finger across the back of a coated spoon. Remove sauce from heat, stir in rum to taste, as well as sea salt if desired. Immediately pour through a sieve into a bowl and refrigerate until cold (creme will thicken substantially), pressing plastic wrap onto the surface of the sauce to prevent a skin from forming. When chilled completely, pour generously over the dessert of your choice.

Gingerbread, in profile

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