Nothing says winter dessert like Sticky Cranberry Gingerbread.
I was destined to make a batch of sticky cranberry gingerbread. Partly because I love cranberries, and partly because I also am a big fan of gingerbread. There was a time around the holiday season that I went through a phase of baking gingerbread men. But this recipe appeared to bring gingerbread to a whole other level. It got me at the word "Sticky."
If you know anything about me, you will know that when I see bags of cranberries in the Food Coop while I am shopping, I feel compelled to buy a bag. The act becomes a quest for a new cranberry recipe that will be tasty, and not too full of sugar. Unfortunately, cranberries and sugar seem to go hand in hand.
Cranberries bring to mind visions of healthy vitamin C. They say that colorful produce is full of nutrients, and one should strive to eat a variety of colors of the rainbow. Cranberries have that range of red colors, ruby red to what I only can describe as coca cola red (even though this is not a healthy image), enticing me to buy and cook them.
Ever since I saw Melissa Clark's recipe in the NYT for Sticky Cranberry Gingerbread, I knew I would have to bake a batch. First I ripped the recipe page from the NYT food section, and kept it in a pile of recipes I hoped to cook one day. Then, in the zeal of decluttering for the New Year, I tossed the pile in the garbage, vowing to never keep piles of papers in the future. Finally, I would print out a copy, and once more toss it, thinking that it would be better if I just cooked vegetables and did not bake desserts.
I was recently invited to a party. So on New Year's Day morning, the day of the fete, I decided to finally make the recipe for Sticky Cranberry Gingerbread. Luckily I already had a bag of cranberries in the refrigerator, along with the rest of ingredients required. I brought the Gingerbread to the party as a gift to the hostess, and enjoyed watching the guests feast on this delightful dessert.
Two things that helped bring in the New Year in a joyful way:
I went to a Dar Williams concert at a small club in my neighborhood. I treasure that Dar feels such a strong connection to Brooklyn, that she comes back each year to play music for our community during the week between Christmas and New Years. The club is small and intimate, such a special place for seeing one of my favorite musicians play.
Dar recently wrote a book, "What I Found In a Thousand Towns," about communities rebuilding themselves, and therefore rebuilding the U.S. from the ground up. It is a guide to taking back our country. And because of the communities she observed while touring the country to play concerts, she has an optimism about our future and shared her optimism with us. An optimism much needed in this era of the Trump Presidency and the corrupt GOP.
During one of the sing-alongs to one of her songs, "Iowa," she asked the audience to turn on the candle lights on our smart phones because, "we all need a little more light in our lives right now." (toward the end of this video you can hear Dar speak to us in her own words, so do take some time and watch the whole video). I am grateful to Dar for bringing light into my own life, with her music and knowledge that she so generously shares with us. Thank you, Dar.
I also went to see an off-Broadway play, called "Twentieth Century Blues." The premise is based a bit on the real life story of the Brown Sisters who were photographed yearly during their lives. It turned out that I saw this play shortly after having spent about a week going through old photographs. Some were saved from my deceased husband's computer, and I added them to my own. I also reviewed a slide show of photos of my husband, Dan, that I had assembled to use at his memorial, and I then emailed a copy to his brother who was not able to attend. Additionally, I put together a Shutterfly photo album from photos of my family found in a box under the bed of my grandmother, after she died many years ago.
All the time I was looking at the various photos from these different projects, I kept thinking, how beautiful my husband was throughout his life. Or how beautiful my mother and father were when they were first married and lived and worked on their chicken farm. Or how beautiful we all were during our family roots trip to Poland, or on a trip to France to celebrate an Aunt's 95th birthday or a cousin's wedding.
At the end of the play, the main character is giving a TED talk and is showing slides of the group of women she photographed each year. She ends with that very first pivotal photograph, and exclaims, (and this may be a paraphrase), "Look at us, just look at us, we were all so beautiful!" Tears came to my eyes in recognition and agreement with her sentiments. What lives we have all led!
And now, here is the recipe for Sticky Cranberry Gingerbread...
Something to help us live our lives in celebration of the every day, as well as special occasions. Bake this recipe for Sticky Cranberry Gingerbread, and enjoy! Happy New Year!
Sticky Cranberry Gingerbread
- 2 cups /8 ounces/266 grams fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1 cup /200 grams granulated sugar
- 1 stick/4 ounces/113 grams unsalted butter
- ⅔ cup /133 grams dark brown sugar
- ½ cup /120 milliliters whole milk
- ½ cup /120 milliliters maple syrup
- ¼ cup /60 milliliters molasses
- 1-½ cups /185 grams all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp /5 grams ground ginger
- ½ tsp /1 gram ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp /3 grams baking powder
- ½ tsp /3 grams kosher salt
- ¼ tsp /1 gram baking soda
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- 2 large eggs lightly beaten
- 1 tbsp /14 grams grated fresh ginger from 1-inch piece
Heat oven to 350 degrees and line a 9-inch square or round baking pan with parchment. (Notes from Cooking the Kitchen: It might help to extend the parchment to create wings over the side of the pan, to later help lift the cake out of the pan after it has cooled. Do not attempt to remove the cake from the pan, until it has cooled sufficiently.)
In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir together cranberries, granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon water. Stir the cranberries over medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved and cranberries form a sauce that is syrup and bubbling thickly, about 10 minutes. Aim to have about half the cranberries broken down, with the remainder more or less whole.
In a separate saucepan, stir together the butter, brown sugar, milk, maple syrup and molasses over medium heat. Bring it to just barely a simmer and then remove it from the heat. Do not let it come to a boil, or the mixture may curdle.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, baking soda and black pepper. Beat in the butter-maple syrup mixture and then beat in the eggs. Stir in the ginger.
Scrape the batter into the pan. Drop fat dollops of cranberry sauce onto the surface of the cake batter. Drag a long, slender knife through the batter in a swirly design, as if you are marbling a cake. Transfer the cake to the oven and bake it until the top is firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire baking rack and let the cake cool completely before eating it. Time for making this recipe is 1-½ hours plus cooling.