Gingerbread “Muffins”

Yes, there will be muffins, but I have some news to get out of the way first.

You may have noticed the flashy new resident logo on the blog’s right hand sidebar: Taste of the Trib.  Above the logo it says, WATCH JANE COOK!  Indeed, if you click on the Eagle Tribune’s logo, you will be able to watch me cook.  That one click leads to a round up of all the short cooking videos I’ve done for the online version of the local newspaper.  There will be more videos in the days leading up to the holidays, so keep checking back for some good ideas for your holiday table.

Next up, more links– this time to the most recent bit of buzz about my fiction writing.  Out Monday in Publisher’s Weekly, a profile of me, my latest book, The Mosaic Artist, and the journey from manuscript to published novel.  Have a read here.  Publisher’s Weekly simultaneously released their review of the book, and you can have a look at that here.  I won’t lie to you, I am delighted by the lines in the review that read, “This is an exceptionally well-crafted novel, a delicate story, and a fine exploration of divorce, forgiveness, happiness, and loss.  The relationships between the characters are thoughtfully constructed, and Ward’s decision to alternate among points of view provides an invaluable window to character growth and evolution.”

Thank you, Publisher’s Weekly!

On to gingerbread.

Just about one year ago, a few days shy in fact, I wrote about my fondness for all gingerbread, but most especially for this dressed up  dessert version made with pears.  The minute the air cools, I crave the tastes of warm ginger and smoky molasses and so I must bake some.  The house smells unfamiliar and familiar at the same time when there’s gingerbread in the oven – part foreign spice souk, part 1950s June Cleaver kitchen – and I can’t think of any aroma I like better or find more comforting.

In search of that comfort while at home alone on a blustery fall Sunday, I decided to try making gingerbread in muffin form.  Muffins, I reasoned, would freeze well individually, letting us enjoy a mouthful of gingerbread whenever we felt like it over the next few weeks, instead of having to devour a whole cake within the next couple of days.

The word “muffin” here really only refers to the finished, baked shape.  Think of theses more as tea cakes, as I do.  The recipe from Standard Baking Company in Maine, reprinted in the December 2000 issue of Bon Appetit magazine, is 100% classic gingerbread, not so much barely sweet breakfast muffin as it is something to enjoy in the afternoon, maybe topped with a bit of whipped cream, alongside a cup of hot tea.

I’d like to try the recipe again to see if I can’t make it into more of a traditional breakfast muffin, maybe reducing the sugar, adding chopped pears and raisins to the batter before baking, topping this with a bit of streusel.  Some form of gingerbread for breakfast would be a wonderful thing.

This time out, though, I stayed true to Standard Baking Company’s recipe, making only a few minor changes: I used dark molasses instead of light, omitted the 1/8 tsp. cloves (I don’t care for cloves; add them back if you like), and added a tsp. of homemade pear-nutmeg butter in the center before baking to give me that flavor of pear I love so well with my gingerbread.

Gingerbread “Muffins”

  • 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup dark molasses
  • 1 1/3 cups cold water
  • pear butter (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Either line with paper liners or lightly butter 16 standard muffin cups.  Set aside.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and salt in medium bowl to blend.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat unsalted butter and sugar to blend well. Add large eggs and beat to blend. Beat in molasses. Scrape the bowl to make sure everything is blended. Batter may look a little “curdled” at this point.

Add half of dry ingredients to the wet, beating until blended. Scrape down the side of the bowl. Beat in remaining dry ingredients. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and give the batter a few good stirs with the rubber scraper. Batter will be stiff at this point.

Gradually add 1 1/3 cups cold water to the stiff batter and beat until incorporated. Once added, the batter will be very liquid.

If filling the muffins with pear butter:

Using an ice cream scoop, fill the scoop until batter is level and pour this amount into each of the 16 prepared cups. Alternately, turn the batter into a large measuring cup with a spout, and pour the batter, filling the cups to about 2/3rds full. (There will be batter left in the bowl; reserve this.)

Top the filled cups with a measuring teaspoon of pear butter.

Using a place setting teaspoon, spoon a little more batter from the reserved batter over the top of the jam. Cover the jam in all muffins until batter is gone.

(If omitting the pear butter, simply divide the batter evenly between all 16 cups.)

Bake muffins for 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted comes out just barely clean, with just a few crumbs sticking to it.  Remove muffin tins to cooling racks and let the muffins cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing.

Dust with powdered sugar and serve, with or without whipped cream.

©2011  Jane A. Ward