This is another one of wife’s quick breads. I only helped by mixing together the dry and wet ingredients (since my wife tends to make a large batch of this bread then freezes it for future use). This PA Dutch gingerbread is very moist and flavorful. We mostly eat it as a breakfast bread. Since I am not wild about the taste of molasses my wife adjusts the flavoring to my preference by using “light molasses” (as it is called in the old Pa Dutch cookbooks). This is a half and half mixture of molasses and corn syrup which tones down the molasses flavor. The original recipe, of course, calls for all molasses (no corn syrup) referred to as just “molasses” in the recipes. If you like an intense molasses taste go with the original specification.
This recipe comes from a cookbook called “the Dutch Peoples Cookbook” Which was published in the early 1960’s. But I think many of the recipes are reprints of much older ones. When I make this I quadruple the recipe which are the amounts shown in the pictures—you can relax, a single amount does not require the 8 eggs shown here.
Single amount recipe: 3 cups flour, 1tsp. baking soda, 2tsp. ground cinnamon, 2 tsp. ground ginger, 1 tsp ground cloves, 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg, 1/2 cup butter, 1 cup sugar, 2 eggs well beaten, 1 cup light molasses (1/2 cup molasses plus 1/2 cup corn syrup) (or regular molasses if you like the taste). 1/4 cup boiling water, 1 cup buttermilk or sour milk. (Diversion alert: When old PA Dutch recipes call for “sour milk” they do not mean milk that has been left to go bad but rather milk to which an acid has been added. For example, instructions for sour milk read: “put 1 tbs. vinegar or lemon juice into a cup measure and fill the remainder with milk”. This is a good substitute to keep in mind if you don’t have buttermilk.)
Sift together the first 6 ingredients and set aside (picture 1). Mix together the molasses, corn syrup (or just molasses if you are not using light molasses) and the boiling water until they are completely blended and set aside (the measuring cup with the spatula in it in picture 2). Cream the butter until fluffy (picture 3) and then begin adding the sugar, eggs and molasses mixture shown in picture 2 starting with the sugar (bowl on the left). When it has been incorporated and is fluffy add the eggs one at a time and beat until the mixture is fluffy. Slowly add the molasses mixture. At this point it will look like the mixture has “broken” but don’t worry all is well. Alternatively add the flour mixture and the buttermilk to the butter-egg mixture. (This is where my husband helps because when you are making 4 times the recipe it requires some muscle to mix it together). Pour the batter, which will be very runny, into a well greased (bottom only) 13x9x2 in pan. Bake at 350 degrees about 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
This is without a doubt the best gingerbread I have ever eaten. It is moist, full of cinnamon, ginger, molasses flavor with a pleasingly dense texture. I served it with port stewed dried figs as shown in the picture and that is a great combination. I usually make this in the fall and it has become one of our seasonal dishes. I make it in large batches because small batches don’t last long.