’tis the season already — we’ve installed a real tree for the first time in five years and our house is softly perfumed with the scent of the outdoors. For the last few years in San Francisco we had a tree that was cut from our friend’s property in the Sierras and I loved knowing they’d come from the California mountains a few hours drive away. It’s a bit strange to be getting into the festive spirit of what I’ve always considered to be the winter holidays in a place where the light lengthens daily and the temperatures reflect the slow march toward summer. We hosted a little get together this afternoon and my often, forever finicky, overheated when I was baking off my loaf of bread; it had better shape up soon as it will be in even more use despite the heat outside. There are sugar cookies to cut, more pumpkin pies to bake, and pans of my new favorite gingerbread to slice and share.
This is a quick one to put together, and comes by way of my friend Megan who writes the A Sweet Spoonful blog. She looooves whole grains, as do I, and shares recipes that are typically on the lighter side of sweet, something I love as well. So this gingerbread, which uses whole grain (I chose spelt of course) flour, honey, and molasses, was just what I was looking for on a rainy Monday afternoon. Sierra and I whipped it together during the baby’s nap and it was done just as we were ready to decorate the tree. It’s simple and wholesome, a snack that doubles as a late morning bite or something more substantial to have with a late cup of tea, rain not required but preferred.
Remember when I used to make my own holiday gifts and cards? Yeah, me neither. (OK, that’s a lie, because the past few years I’ve made toffee and cookies and passed them out to friends.) But I do what I can; Sierra and I baked pumpkin-chocolate bread, granola, and the ginger-chocolate cookies from my book to give to her teachers, today being the end of term for the year (one more year until she starts school for real, gulp). It felt good to make these small offerings together, to talk about how hard they work all year and how much we appreciate them for taking such care of her during the hours she’s with them (I think some of this registered).
She was so excited to hand out the gift bags this morning and it felt so good to give a gift that we’d made together, for them, and that was consumable. Can we all agree that we have so much stuff in our modern lives? I am in still in the mindset of paring down and keeping it simple, so edible gifts are a mainstay. And books. Shhh, don’t tell my little ones, but their presents this year will mostly be oh-so thrilling things like books and a new pair of shoes. Necessary indulgences but we don’t want to overdo it.
Makes 12 servings.
Note that the ginger can be one or two tablespoons; ginger here is quite strong, so making this recipe with the called-for two tablespoons resulted in a very spicy cake that was perhaps not to everyone’s taste.
8 tablespoons (115 g) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
1 3/4 cups spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1-2 tablespoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 large egg
1 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons whole milk
Heat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9-inch square pan.
In a small saucepan, melt together the butter, honey, molasses and brown sugar over low heat. Gently stir to combine as the mixture melts. Set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, ginger, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour the butter mixture into the flour mixture and combine with a few strokes of a wooden spoon, taking care not to over mix.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, yogurt and milk. Add the egg mixture to the batter and whisk to combine. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan.
Bake until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean when inserted into the cake, about 30 minutes. Store, covered, at room temperature.