Friday, December 25, 2009

Gingerbread and Applesauce

One of the many great things about my sister is that when she says she's making something you want to make it too, since you know it's going to be good. Not long ago she posted a Facebook update saying she'd made gingerbread and applesauce, and it was suddenly the only thing I wanted to eat. I never make gingerbread, and while the kids enjoy decorating gingerbread houses this time of year, we don't actually eat them. I was determined, however, to give it a go.

I don't know which recipes my sister used, but here are the two I chose. The gingerbread recipe is adapted from this one on, and the applesauce is from Barbara Kafka's Microwave Gourmet.

Dark & Spicy Gingerbread

Preheat oven to 350ºF; grease and flour a 9x9 or 7x11 inch baking pan.

In a large bowl, cream together
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup white sugar

1 egg
1 cup dark molasses
1/4 cup applesauce or apple butter

In a separate bowl, whisk together
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt

Add flour mixture to wet ingredients and mix to combine. Add
1 cup hot water
and mix well on low speed.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 55-60 minutes, until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool on a rack before slicing. Serve with warm applesauce.

(makes one pint)

Wash and quarter
1 1/2 pounds apples (about 3 large or 4 medium apples)
and place in 4-quart glass measure.

1 cup white sugar
1/2 cinnamon stick
4 whole cloves
dash of ground allspice
dash of ground nutmeg

Cover bowl with cling wrap and microwave on full power for 15 minutes, stirring after five minutes to make sure the sugar is mixed in with the juices and doesn't scorch. Remove from microwave and pass through the medium disc of a food mill. Stir well to combine, and let cool slightly before serving.

Hints and buying tips:

Cookbooks are always specifying apple varieties I can't get: Greenings, Macintoshes, and so on. I use what I have on hand, but try to mix them up -- a Gala, a Fuji, a Granny Smith. (I never use Red Delicious.) This is a pretty good approach when making apple pies, too; apples all bring something different to the recipe, so a mix brings out all their strengths.

I have a food mill, and use it just barely enough to justify keeping it around. If you don't have one (or another kind of ricer or sieve that will allow you to push the cooked apples through), then peel and core the apples before cooking them and pulse them in a blender to reduce them to sauce. Without the pectin from the skins you may have more liquid in your applesauce, but give it a try.

Whole cloves and cinnamon sticks are not hard to find: Walason's, Wellcome, Jason's, etc. The nutmeg and ginger are at Walason's for sure, possibly at the others I named. If you're buying all these spices at once, use powdered cinnamon and cloves for the applesauce as well as the cake (a dash or two of each).

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