Do you own a Microplane? That’s the long, file-looking thing that grates all sorts of stuff. I bought one when they first came out and it’s one of the few gizmo-ish things I won’t give up. It’s not essential to make this gingerbread, but it surely does help. And it’s far more efficient than the porcelain ginger grater I bought at a high-end kitchen shop.
The gingerbread itself is near-miraculous. It’s from my very beat-up and much loved Cafe Beaujolais Cookbook, and it uses fresh ginger. The first time I made it, I accidentally doubled the ginger, using 4 ounces instead of the 2 ounces the recipe called for. It’s quite zingy that way, but for me, it’s what lifts it head and shoulders above others.
If you haven’t worked with fresh ginger, or if you haven’t worked with it this way, let’s discuss it a little. The easiest way to peel fresh ginger, except for the callused bits, is just to scrape it with a teaspoon. I lay the Microplane across a shallow bowl and grate the ginger into the bowl. A box grater’s smallest holes can be used, but takes a lot longer and is the very devil to clean. The Microplane also does far better with the fibers of fresh ginger, although if they hang around and get in your way, a snip with your kitchen scissors is the easiest way to deal with them. Save the ginger juices, too, and add them in; it’s all good. I’ve made it with 2 ounces, and I prefer the higher amount.
I’ve also used the bottled ginger that can be found at places like Global Foods Market, in a weight-equivalent amount, about a quarter cup, and find it is less gingery than the grated-on-the-spot sort. If you’re in a hurry, it’ll do, but I encourage you to try the real stuff. The Microplane is also great for grating garlic, hard cheese, dried bread for crumbs, lots of things.
And as a little side note, when you’re greasing your baking pan, also grease the quarter-cup measure for the molasses (I use the dark variety) and the corn syrup. (Are you one of those people who automatically call it Karo syrup? I am.) That way it’ll pour out cleanly and save you scraping the cup.
½ c. butter, room temperature
½ c. dark brown sugar
¼ c. molasses
¼ c. dark (Karo) corn syrup
1 egg, beaten
¼ tsp. salt
1 ½ c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ c. buttermilk, room temperature
2 to 4 ounce knob of fresh ginger, peeled and grated (see above)
Grease an 8-inch square pan and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda and set aside. Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the molasses, corn syrup, egg and salt, and beat until smooth. Add half the flour-baking soda mixture (you don’t have to be obsessive about the exact amount), stir until it’s mixed in, add half the buttermilk and mix it in. Repeat with the remaining flour and buttermilk. Stir in the ginger until it’s well-distributed.
Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 40-45 minutes until a toothpick or other cake tester comes out clean.
Serves 9-16, depending on how you cut it. Or maybe just four of you. And, yes, it freezes well.