It's a beautiful sunny morning, and I just had a nice rich luscious piece of gingerbread for breakfast. Hansel and Gretel are in no danger here; this isn't the kind of gingerbread you'll find being used as construction material. It is gooey and fabulous, and best served warm on a chilly morning. Some people don't believe in fairies; I don't believe in any baked good that is so un-tempting that it can be left to get all stale and sad, no matter how attractively decorated it might be! I believe in baked goods that are warm and spicy and waft temptingly in the air, and this one certainly fits the bill. In fact, I've had neighbors come to inquire about what on earth I'm baking, because the scent invaded their house! Yes, I offered them some.
The story behind this recipe is pretty recognizable to anyone with a child who has an allergy. For my daughter's 3rd birthday, I asked her what kind of cake she would like. She happily told me she wanted a "ginger cake"! We had been getting gingerbread cakes from Trader Joe because they were dairy-free...but Grandmom AND Granddad had just been diagnosed with a wheat allergy, and it didn't seem fair to me to make them watch everyone else eat a dessert they couldn't touch. So, glory be, I found a gluten-free bakery in the area that had just opened, and asked them to make us two gingerbread birthday cakes (their cakes were all small) that would adhere to all the allergies in the family. They made: ONE very small plain cake flavored with pears, barely decorated and lop-sided, with the consistency of a brick. For about $50. I supplemented with other store-bought cakes and apologized to my parents, but the (unintended) message from the bakery was clear: if you have more than one allergy, you will take what we feel like making for you, and like it. It's an attitude I have run across very frequently, both before that incident and since. It isn't that people are being mean on purpose, it's just that they don't seem to be able to think beyond what they already know how to do. Well...I decided to learn new things. After all, it looked like the only way I'd ever again be able to give my babies the birthday cake they wanted!
So, within a few weeks, I had tracked down an uncomplicated gingerbread recipe online, and adjusted it to fit every allergy on the family list. That was, incidentally, also the same week I figured out the golden ratio for Pixie Dust. It was a busy week!
This gingerbread, completely un-iced, earned emphatic approval from the Birthday Girl. If I had to describe it, I'd say it's the cakey version of shoo-fly pie filling. It is also, incidentally, a wickedly wonderful source of calcium and iron. To date, this is my most-requested recipe.
Gretel's Gooey Gingerbread
4 2/3 cups Pixie Dust*
2/3 cup evaporated cane juice
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups blackstrap molasses
1 cup oil - I use soybean, but light-flavored olive oil or safflower oil works just as well
2 large eggs OR egg replacer equivalent
1 1/2 cups hot water
*If you're just doing the Pixie Dust as you go, the ratio is 2 parts rice flour: 1 part garbanzo bean flour: 1 part tapioca starch. In this case, that means 2 1/3 cups rice flour, and another 2 1/3 cups half-and-half of the other two. A small difference in ratios (because what the heck is half of 1/3?) doesn't make a noticeable difference.
Grease and flour a large rectangular baking pan - or, if you're into avoiding dirty dishes (like me!), line the baking pan with parchment paper. The paper will crinkle up in the corners, but the gingerbread will come out easily, with no paper fragments at all, so no worries!
Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees.
Combine all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl, and stir to combine. Then add the wet ingredients either one at a time, in the order given, or all in one go. Personally, I like to add the hot water last by itself, after I've stirred in the rest a bit to keep from getting any cooked egg bits in the final product (if I'm using eggs).
A Note About Egg Replacer: Egg replacer is awesome, and I generally use it; if I'm running low and not trying to feed anyone with an egg allergy, I switch to eggs. I haven't noticed any particular difference between the brands of egg replacer available; pretty much the same ingredients, pretty much the same directions, pretty much identical finished product. The brand I usually see is Ener-G: http://www.ener-g.com/egg-replacer.html. But really, seriously, if you're at your local organic market and they have a different brand, you'll be fine.
Use a mixer to mix the ingredients until they're thoroughly combined, then increase the mixer speed and beat for ANOTHER 3 MINUTES. Yes, it's a really long time to babysit a bowl of batter. Yes, it does make a difference.
Pour the batter into your prepared cake pan, and bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out reasonably non-gooey. If it looks like it's covered in pudding, it needs a few more minutes. If it has a few semi-crumbly bits on it, it's done. If you wait until it comes out clean as a whistle, it's over-cooked and will be kind of hard to chew.
Cut the gingerbread into squares and serve warm! I understand it freezes well, but...it's never lasted long enough in my house to test this theory.
Safe for the following allergies: dairy, egg, gluten, wheat, corn, oats, barley, tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish, soy (if you use a different oil), nightshades (if you use eggs - every brand of egg replacer uses potato starch!)
Yes, you *can* use regular molasses in the recipe. In fact, the recipe originally called for regular molasses. Regular molasses are sweeter and lighter in color, but less nutritious (the more processed, the less calcium). By happy accident, I ran out of regular molasses the second time I made this recipe, so I substituted the blackstrap molasses that I had. It took the gingerbread from over-sweet (in my opinion) and a dark brown to a luscious black-as-sin delight with a sort of coffee-ish aftertaste. Not only that, but I read the nutrition label: one TABLESPOON of blackstrap molasses provides 20% of your daily recommended calcium and iron. They don't list the daily dose of potassium it contains, but I know it's in there - that's why I kept it on hand in the first place. Therefore, weighing in at 2 CUPS per recipe, two pieces of gingerbread in the morning probably gives you all the calcium and iron you'll need for the day, and a nice chunk of potassium, too. Score! Good nutrition never tasted so good!