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The Spice of Life

You guys, it’s getting creepily close to Christmas and I’m not sure if I’m excited or sad! Maybe some of both. Excited for the holiday and sad that it is passing by so quickly!  As I sit here to write this, I have A Year Without a Santa Claus on tv and just listening to it brings back some of the childhood excitement the season brings me.

Having a little taste test before bed

With it being so close to the holiday, tis the season for some quality gingerbread. I’m not talking about the fancy Martha Stewartesque gingerbread houses all decked out with their candy cane gates and jolly rancher swimming pool. Ina offers up a much different version of gingerbread. It is a rustic dessert that is dense, spicy, and sweet. This is a perfect addition to any holiday dessert table this year. Also, it makes the whole house smell AMAZING. Think of it as edible potpourri. The orange frosting on top adds more flavor to the cake but you can opt to skip it and simply sprinkle it with powdered sugar.

How could this possibly be bad?!?!

This cake is sweetened by molasses, there is no other sugar actually in it. Molasses is a very dark, sweet, smoky syrup that gives gingerbread its unique color and flavor. One thing I did want to look up is what exactly unsulfured molasses is since the recipe specifically called for it. I’ve never really paid attention in the store. According to my research, molasses is the by product of the sugar making process. So when the sugar cane is crushed to make the little sugar granules we use to sweeten almost anything, the leftover is molasses. In some instances, sulfur is used during this process. I can only imagine that the sulfur adds a not too pleasant taste. I have also learned that most molasses in the states is unsulfured, so you don’t really have to worry about it. It’s always safe though to check the label to make sure.

Bubbly molasses and butter

This cake also has it’s fair share of spice in it. A whole teaspoon and a half of ground ginger root (it is gingerbread after all), cinnamon, and cloves give the cake balance with the earthy sweetness of the molasses. Another balancing ingredient which I think it totally necessary is the orange zest. You can’t taste it too much in the cake but it definitely adds a layer of flavor and helps cut through the sweetness.

I did make a few changes to the recipe, not major, but some differences. I didn’t use the recommended golden raisins, I used the regular ones. They are easier to find, taste the same, and I think more nostalgic looking. It reminds me of the applesauce cake my grandma made with the dark raisins in it. Also, I don’t have an 8×8 pan so I had to improvise. I do have a 6-cup bundt pan which worked perfectly, all I had to do was up the baking time by 15 minutes. If you use the bundt pan, I recommend baking the gingerbread for 45 minutes and check it and if it needs more time, add 5 minutes then check again. I got about 15 slices out of the bundt cake which was great as I had planned to take it to a work holiday lunch the next day.

A little edible decoration never hurt…

I decided to add a little extra Ina to my gingerbread. A mantra of hers is that she always garnishes a dish with an ingredient in the dish, “so you know exactly what’s in it.” So, I used my special zester that peels little strips off of the citrus. For this recipe, I zested half the orange which went into the cake, then I used this zester on the rest of the orange for the garnish. This isn’t necessary, you could just zest the rest of the orange regularly into the frosting to add extra flavor if you wanted. If you want to purchase a zester like this one, check out the amazon link below. Just make sure you zest BEFORE you cut and juice the orange, otherwise it’ll be a mess.

A great wine to pair this with is Winc’s new sparkling wine, Fink’s Widow. Bubbly just screams holidays and it is great for cocktails or after a meal with dessert. It has a lot of great apple and even pineapple flavors that are really crisp on the palate with the effervescence. You can’t beat the price on this one – only $13. That’s about the same price as prosecco. Many sparkling wines are difficult to find that cheaply (that are good), but this one is definitely a winner. It’s great on it’s own, but I was tempted into turning it into a holiday mimosa. Use this link for a discount on your first order: https://hi.winc.com/2lhy61q4ll7.

FW spreading some holiday cheer!

I first got the idea for this cocktail by seeing sugared cranberries and wanting to make them. When you make sugared cranberries, you cook them for a little and then let them soak in a mixture of sugar and water. The leftover syrup is turned slightly red from the cranberries and has great flavors. I added about 2 teaspoons of the simple syrup to 2 Tablespoons of cranberry cocktail mix and then topped it with the Finke’s Widow. I put the finished sugared cranberries on a large toothpick as garnish. SO GOOD! The cranberry flavor is balanced out by the sweetness of the syrup and the wine adds some crispness to the drink. This is one you’ll definitely want to make for your holiday party. As an alternative to the sugared cranberries, you can always freeze some fresh cranberries and use them as ice cubes in your drink as garnish and to keep the drink cold without watering it down.

Festive and refreshing


Print Recipe
Old-Fashioned Gingerbread
From Back to Basics by Ina Garten, page 202
Course Dessert
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Passive Time 3 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Dessert
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Passive Time 3 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8x8-inch cake pan. Place the rum and raisins in a small pan, cover, and heat until the rum boils. Turn off the heat and set aside. Place the butter and molasses in another small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Pour the mixture into a large mixing bowl. Cool for 5 minutes, then mix in the sour cream and orange zest.
  2. Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and salt together into a small bowl. Mix to combine. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the molasses mixture and mix only until smooth.
  3. Drain the raisins and add them and the crystallized ginger to the mixture with a spatula. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for about 35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Set aside to cool completely.
  4. When the cake is cooled, whisk together the confectioner's sugar and orange juice and pour it over the gingerbread allowing it to drip down the sides. Cut into 9 squares.
Recipe Notes

You can use a 6 cup bundt pan. If so, increase baking time to 45 minutes and if it isn't done completely, put back into the over for another 5 minutes. Using a bundt pan yields about 12-15 slices of cake.

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That Pumpkin Roll

Howdy folks! Glad to see there was a lot of interest in the salad that was posted last week. I hope for those of you that tried it, you loved it. Or if you decided to try Winc and get some wine, I hope you enjoy it as well. If there are any kinds that you have questions about, let me know, I’ve had my fair share of them so far so I can give you some pointers on those that I have tried. 🙂

So many of us know that Thanksgiving is coming up next week. Unless you rely upon the retail industry to tell you, then you’ll likely think that next week is Christmas. Anyway Thanksgiving is here – a joyous holiday that celebrates eating! Whether you’re celebrating with your family, friends, coworkers, pets, whomever, there is usually one staple that pops up after the turkey and sides and that is something pumpkin. 😀 I, along with the throngs of fervent fans, have been lining up for some pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks since September. Now it’s time to glorify our love of it and make it into something edible. Traditionally, the pumpkin dessert comes in the form of pie. However, leave it to Ina to take her pumpkin spice to another level for Turkey Day….a Pumpkin Roulade.

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So, I’ve totally made this before – not Ina’s, but I think it was just a generic recipe that I had found. I’ve also grown up with what we called Pumpkin Roll, so this wasn’t too new to me when I saw the recipe. I did note a few differences though. First, Ina adds more spice to her cake which adds a lot more flavor as I’ve discovered. Second, her filling is made with mascarpone cheese. Think of this as the Italian version of cream cheese and can be found in the grocery store either in the specialty cheese case (where the brie and smoked gouda are) or it’ll be with the cream cheese. It’s not quite as dense as American cream cheese and it has more of a ricotta consistency. Lastly, she rolls hers differently than I’ve seen/done it in the past, which I’ll get into in a second.  Let me talk about a few other things first.

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Roulade is a fancy French term for anything that is rolled as it comes from the French root word meaning “to roll”. It doesn’t have to be a dessert, in fact Ina’s got a nice recipe for a Turkey Roulade in Back to Basics that I’ll get to try later. I think that the idea of rolling the cake is a bit daunting. I remember I had to have my mom help me out the first time I made one because I didn’t understand how just roll a cake up. The batter has a higher ratio of eggs to flour than most typical cakes which makes it more spongy and pliable. You also bake it on a half sheet pan so it is long and thin which aids in the rollage process. The most important aspects I’ve learned of making a roll cake is that you have to use a liberally confection sugar dusted kitchen towel (and when I say liberal I mean it, think Bernie Sanders liberal, as the sugar keeps the cake from sticking) AND you have to do the rolling while the cake is hot. If you wait to let it cool, it’ll just break apart. So have your kitchen towel dusted completely with confection sugar on the ready and flip that cake out as soon as it comes out of the oven, and roll it up.

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Speaking of rolling, let’s get to what I wanted to mention earlier. I didn’t follow Ina’s recipe exactly on this. She recommends rolling from the short side so you get several layers and albeit a more dramatic presentation. The end result is a taller cake, but shorter cake so when you slice it, you get more per slice but less slices if that makes sense. The roll that I’m used to, I’m going to call the West Virginia Roll because that is how I learned to do it. This is the exact opposite of Ina’s method. You roll from the long end so it is longer, there aren’t as many layers but you get more slices out of it. As I decided I wanted to take this to work, this was great because I easily got about 16-18 slices out of it. It really just depends on how you prefer to do it. It’ll taste the same, trust me on that.

Pre-roll

Pre-roll

I also made a minor change to the filling as well. I used half cream cheese and half mascarpone. I just think that the cream cheese is a bit thicker so it holds up when slicing better. You can totally use all cream cheese if you can’t find mascarpone or just don’t feel like using it. Your choice. Oh! Ina also has you put crystallized ginger in the filling. Never heard of it or had it? It’s basically ginger root that has been sliced and cooked in sugar syrup until it get’s really chewy. It’s SO good. OMG. It still has the spice from the ginger but the sweetness makes it more palatable. You can find this easily in the grocery store with the dried fruits.

Sweet AND Spicy - I like

Sweet AND Spicy – I like

Now, let’s talk about wine. Winc gave me a little lesson in wine, specifically European wines that have to be “declassified”.  I know that this gives the perception that there is something wrong with the wine or it is low quality.

De "Classy"!

De “Classy”!

Winc assures us otherwise. In fact, they pointed out that high profile vineyard in Europe often have to declassify wines due to other countries’ wine laws. An example: the vineyard’s yield exceeded its yearly allowance. So they bottle those that are allowed under their vineyard and the remaining wine is bottled under seperate cover and sold below market value. Sooooo essentially, declassified wines are my jam. High-end delicious wines for cheap! Sign me up. Now, Winc won’t tell us what kind of wine it is or where it is from – so we are left guessing. They did give a clue that the grape grows really well in and is native to Piedmont, Italy. From my research, the king grape of Peidmont is Nebbiolo, so that’s what my guess will be. The tasting notes of this wine are cherries, vanilla, and rosemary. SO GOOD! This wine would pair well with some turkey and dressing, not to mention a ginger filled Pumpkin Roulade. You still have a few days to order if you want some in time for Thanksgiving, the shipping is SUPER fast, so if you want some and want to get a discount on your first order, use my link and give Winc a try: https://hi.winc.com/2lhy61q4ll7.

Happy Thanksgiving! Take some time to reflect on what you are Thankful for and enjoy your time with family and friends. 😀

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Print Recipe
Pumpkin Roulade with Ginger Buttercream
From Back to Basics by Ina Garten, page 212.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Passive Time 3 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Pumpkin Cake
Ginger Buttercream
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Passive Time 3 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Pumpkin Cake
Ginger Buttercream
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Liberally grease and flour a half sheet pan (13x18x1 inch). If you wish, line the pan with parchment paper and grease and flour the paper.
  2. In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt and stir to combine. Place the eggs and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Alternatively you can use a hand-mixer. Beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. The batter should be pale yellow and thickened. Add the pumpkin and mix. Slowly add the flour mixture until incorporated. Finish mixing with a rubber spatula. Pour into prepared pan and spread evenly. The batter will be thin. Bake the cake for 10-12 minutes, until the top springs back when gently touched.
  3. While the cake is baking, lay out a clean, thin cotton kitchen towel on a flat surface and sift the entire 1/4 cup of confectioner's sugar evenly over it. (This prevents the cake from sticking to it). As soon as you remove the cake from the oven, loosen it around the edges and invert it squarely onto the prepared towel (don't be scared). Peel away the parchment paper if you used it. Lightly roll the warm cake and the towel together (don't press), starting at the short end (or long end if you're going for the WV roll). Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
  4. Meanwhile, make the filling. Mix the mascarpone cheese, confectioner's sugar, and cream together for about a minute. (Make sure that the cheese is at room temperature otherwise it won't mix together well at all). Stir in the crystallized ginger and salt.
  5. To assemble, carefully unroll the cake onto a board with the towel underneath. Spread the filling evenly onto the cake. Reroll the cake in a spiral using the towel to guide it. Remove the towel and trim the ends to make a neat edge. Dust with confectioners' sugar and serve sliced.
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