I can’t talk for long today, because in a couple of hours, I’ll be going to see The Force Awakens with about a dozen of Cal’s nearest and dearest; it’s all they’ve talked about for weeks. I suppose their Star Wars obsession has at its root something we all need: the reminding that against all odds, light can prevail.
My only holiday-ish baking so far has been this sticky cranberry gingerbread, and if it turns out to be the only thing I bake this month, I chose well. One pan was for a friend who just had one of the worst surgeries a woman can have, and is beginning the incremental process of recovery with courage and faith. When I don’t know what to do, I head to the kitchen. I measured and simmered and stirred at high noon, in a pale half light so dramatic and quiet it made my heart widen.
Sticky Cranberry Gingerbread
Adapted from Eat This Now by Melissa Clark
This spicy gingerbread is punched up with a surprise of carmelized cranberries. Its toffee-like texture is spectacular. I cut the granulated sugar to half of what the original recipe calls for (1 cup), in order to fully appreciate the tartness of the berries against the sweetness of the cake. It’s even better the day after you make it, if you can stand to wait; it’s fantastic up to two days after baking, and pretty good up to five days out. To store, wrap it well and refrigerate. Bring it to room temperature before serving.
2 cups/8 ounces/266 grams fresh or frozen cranberries
½ cup/100 grams granulated sugar
1 stick/4 ounces/113 grams unsalted butter
⅔ cup/133 grams dark brown sugar
½ cup/120 milliliters whole milk
¼ cup/60 milliliters golden syrup (can substitute maple syrup, but it’s better with golden syrup)
½ cup/120 milliliters molasses
1 ½ cups/185 grams all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon/5 grams ground ginger
½ teaspoon/1 gram ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon/3 grams baking powder
½ teaspoon/3 grams kosher salt
¼ teaspoon/1 gram baking soda
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon/14 grams grated fresh ginger (from 1-inch piece)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch square or round baking pan, then line it with parchment paper.
In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir together the cranberries, granulated sugar, and 1 tablespoon water. Stir the cranberry mixture over medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved and the cranberries form a sauce that is syrupy and bubbling thickly, 10-15 minutes. About half the cranberries should be broken down, with the remainder more or less whole.
In a separate saucepan, stir together the butter, brown sugar, milk, golden syrup and molasses over medium heat. Bring it to just barely a simmer and then remove it from the heat. The mixture may curdle if you let it come to a boil.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, baking soda and black pepper. Beat in the butter-syrup mixture and then beat in the eggs. Stir in the ginger.
Scrape the batter into the pan. Drop large dollops of cranberry sauce onto the surface of the cake batter. Drag a long, slender knife through the batter in a swirly design, as if you are marbling a cake. Transfer the cake to the oven and bake it until the top is firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire baking rack and let the cake cool completely before eating it.
Yield: 8 to 10 servings