It’s been too long since I’ve had gingerbread.  Well, actually, that’s a complete lie.  But still – it’s been years since I’ve made gingerbread.  Mom says Florida Grandmom (her mother) used to bake gingerbread every year when she came to visit for Christmas, but this was before I was bitten by the baking bug (Woah, alliteration.  Thanks middle school Language Arts!) and I actually have no memory at all of this happening.  My childhood Christmas memories err more towards, well, opening presents in my pj’s…and then watching as Dad spent hours constructing whatever Barbie dollhouse/car/RV (Seriously – it’s hot pink and is still in my basement.  Did I mention I happen to loathe camping??) I’d wanted that year.  Ahh, the joys of parenting.

I do, however, have one very vivid gingerbread-related memory, and it goes a little something like this:

One year, I made gingerbread myself.  I remember preheating the oven, making the whole shebang (unassisted, thankyouverymuch), pouring it lovingly into the loaf pan, sliding it ever so carefully into the hot oven, shutting the door…and immediately realizing I had forgotten to add the molasses.  Which is, of course, arguably the key ingredient for gingerbread success (I say arguably because leaving out the ginger would sort of eff up the whole name of the dish).  So I yanked it out of the oven, broke up the delicate crust that had started to form on the top, feverishly dumped the molasses into the pan, stirred like my damn life depended on it, and flung it back into the oven – all the while shooting furtive little glances around the kitchen to make sure my family hadn’t realized what a dopey thing I’d done.  I mean, really Katie.  You know what color gingerbread is.  Did you honestly think that pale, bread-batter colored crap was going to come out the deep, dark brown of gingerbread?  I didn’t think so.

How did it taste, you ask?  No idea.  Can’t remember.  But I think the fact that I’ve blocked out the part of the memory where I actually consume the stuff is an indication of its success.  Or, you know, lack thereof.  Anyway….

Perhaps this is why it’s been years since my last attempt.  But you guys know that, even after its untimely demise, I’m still a Gourmet addict, and the description of their gingerbread sucked me right in.  No strange ingredients, it promised, just straightforward gingerbread. Oh!  Something easy! Well then.  Joy to the World, indeed, friends.

Gourmet Gingerbread

Adapted from Gourmet

Warm out of the oven, this gingerbread is the best I’ve had in a long time.  More cake than bread, it rises a considerable amount, leaving the inside incredibly fluffy, moist, and…soft.  That’s the only way I can describe it – soft. Soft and Christmasy.

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 large egg

1/2 cup mild molasses

3/4 cup whole milk

1/2 cup hot water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9-inch square baking pan.

Mix together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  Set aside.

Cream butter and sugar together in a separate bowl until pale and fluffy.  Beat in egg, then beat in molasses and milk.  Slowly add the flour mixture until everything is smooth and incorporated, then add the hot water and stir until mixed.  The batter will look gross and curdled – it’s OKAY.

Spread batter evenly into pan, and bake until set (a cake tester will come out nearly clean – I didn’t want to overbake mine, so it wasn’t completely clean yet).  Cool on a wire rack, then cut.