August 01, 2010
Christmas Baking with Chocolate Gingerbread
I’m back with something sweet! Hopefully my computer troubles are over and I can concentrate on more important things, like baking! I know a lot of you in the Northern hemisphere have been sweating lately, but in the backwards land that is New Zealand, the colder weather has me feeling like it should soon be Christmas. I sometimes forget that just because the seasons are inversed here, doesn’t mean the holidays are. Lately I’ve had it on the brain that Christmas should be right around the corner. The days are short, it gets dark early, there’s a chill in the air and I’ve been eating clementines, a sure sign that the holiday season is upon us… Or maybe not. Anyways, since I’ve been in a festive mood, I decided to do some Christmas-y flavoured baking in the form of these Chocolate Gingerbread Bars from Martha Stewart.
Every review I read of them was positive and I’m convinced it’s a good recipe, but I didn’t love the molasses that I used for them. In many ways New Zealand is like Canada, but there are little differences that only become more apparent after you’ve been here for a while. Anyone who’s ever been to Thailand will know the expression “Same same, but different.” That idea applies here too. When I go to the grocery store here they’ve got most of the same ingredients as back home but they’re not identical. The molasses I got here had a stronger, more bitter flavour, (one of my tasters likened it to black liquorice) and I felt it almost overpowered the bars. To compensate for that I decided that a vanilla been frosting was needed. When I was in Tonga I picked up a bundle of vanilla beans and I’ve since been using them with reckless abandon. I used an entire vanilla bean to make a simple icing sugar, lemon juice and vanilla bean seed frosting to spread in between the bars. It added enough sweetness and contrast to offset the strength of the molasses and in the end, these bars were quite addictive. So addictive in fact that I had to get them out of my sight so I packaged them up and gave them to a friend of mine who was supposed to share with her boyfriend. I received a call today saying that he never got one…
Chocolate Gingerbread Bars, (from Martha Stewart)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for pan
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
1 large egg
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
confectioners' sugar, for dusting (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Line bottom with a strip of parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides; butter paper. Dust paper and sides of pan with cocoa; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together cocoa, flour, ginger, pumpkin-pie spice, and baking soda; set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together butter, brown sugar, molasses, egg, and sour cream until smooth. Add flour mixture; stir just until moistened (do not overmix). Stir in chocolate chips. Transfer batter to prepared pan; smooth top.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely. Using paper overhang, lift gingerbread from pan. Transfer to a cutting board, and cut into 16 squares. Before serving, dust bars with confectioners sugar, if desired. (To store, keep in an airtight container at room temperature, up to 3 days.)
***The only thing I changed, besides adding the vanilla frosting, was to omit the pumpkin pie spice and ground ginger which I replaced with cinnamon, nutmeg and grated fresh ginger.