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When I was six or seven months pregnant with Sam, my boss at Gourmet volunteered me to cook a dish at a fund-raising event for 300 to 400 people. I was not thrilled. Even when I’m at the top of my game, that kind of large scale cooking is not my forte. But being pregnant really increased my dread. To top it off, the organizers of this gala charged me with making dessert. Of course! Of the dozen chefs working on this event, only two were women, so naturally at least one of us was assigned to pastries, where women predominate. Unfortunately, dessert is not my forte either.
I was rescued by my good friend and mentor Jean Anderson, who put me on to her recipe for gingerbread made with fresh ginger. It is simple to make, very tasty, and easy to transport and serve. It was also a smash hit on the night in question. The whole evening the other participating chefs–including a number of New York’s biggest culinary stars–spent more time buzzing around my booth than they did anyone else’s. The gingerbread was just that good. I think the fresh ginger is what makes the difference.
18 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
Makes 16 servings
Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Butter and flour a 13- by 9-inch baking pan, preferably nonstick.
Beat the butter in an electric mixer until smooth. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the molasses and beat until well blended. Add the ginger, orange zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Mix the soda with the vinegar in a small bowl and add to the batter. Transfer to a large bowl.
Add the flour by hand, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with flour. After each addition, stir only enough to combine.
Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan, and bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes. Cool the gingerbread in the pan on a wire rack. Cut into squares and serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
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