Gingerbread

Christmas Gingerbread

Forget gift giving. For me, enjoying my favorite holiday foods the essential part of a Merry Christmas. Gravlax, Swedish meatballs and a big English breakfast on Christmas morning are all long-standing traditions in my home and when I eat them I am reconnected with holidays past.

Every Christmas I make my favorite gingerbread cake, which is based on a recipe from Claudia Fleming when I worked for her at Gramercy Tavern in the nineties. This gingerbread uses stout and fresh ginger, which along with the more traditional molasses and dried ginger, gives this cake an intense, bright flavor. We often eat it for dessert on Christmas Day, but this cake stays fresh for several weeks, so I’m usually enjoying it happily (for dessert, snack even breakfast) through the New Year.

Stout Gingerbread

2 -3 tablespoons melted butter for greasing the pan

2 cups stout

2 cups unsulphured molasses

2 teaspoons baking soda

6 eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup dark brown sugar

1½ cups butter, melted and cooled

4 cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons ground ginger

1 tablespoon baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

2 teaspoons ground white pepper

¼ cup freshly grated ginger

  1. Heat oven to 325F. Butter a 10-12 cup Bundt pan.
  2. In a large saucepot, combine the stout and molasses and cring to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda. This will cause the mixture to bubble-up. Let the pan rest off the heat until the bubbles are gone and the liquid is cool.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, sugars and melted butter. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and dry spices.
  4. Mix the cooled molasses mixture with the egg mixture. Slowly add these blended liquids to the flour mixture. Stir in the fresh ginger.
  5. Pour the batter into the Bundt pan. Bake for 75 minutes, or until the top begins to crack and spring back when gently touched with your finger. Cool completely before unmolding from the pan.

Merry Christmas!

Super Snack

popcorn

The Big Game is tomorrow and, after Thanksgiving, the best holiday for eating. One of the snacks I decided to make this year is a spicy mix of popcorn and toasted nuts. My CSA grew popcorn this year and decided to add it to a recipe I had from my days at Gramercy Tavern for spicy nuts. My friend, Nick Oltarsh created the nut part of this recipe for the Tavern bar and recently Danny Meyer published a version of it in his bar book: Mix Shake Stir: Recipes from Danny Meyer’s Acclaimed New York City Restaurants.They’re an addictive crunchy mix of sweet and spicy. Adding the popcorn lightens the snack, so you can enjoy it for the entire game.

Spicy Nuts and Popcorn Mix

Makes about 8 cups

Spice Mix:

1/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons ground cumin

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

Sugar syrup:

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup water

3 cups mixed nuts (pecans, almonds, peanuts, macadamias, cashews)

½ cup popcorn kernels,

Oil for popping corn, if necessary

2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter

  1. Prepare the spice mix: Combine the ingredients for the spice mix in a small bowl, stirring until the sugar, salt and spices are completely and evenly blended. Measure out 2 teaspoons of the spice mix and set aside for the popcorn.
  2. Prepare the sugar syrup: Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepot. Heat the mixture to a simmer, stirring once or twice to help the sugar dissolve. Simmer the syrup for 1-2 minutes, then remove from the heat. Once the syrup has cooled slightly, it’s ready to use. It should have the consistency of maple syrup, not thick like honey.
  3. Prepare the nuts: Heat oven to 350F. In a medium bowl, toss the nuts with the sugar syrup, then add the spice mix. Stir until the nuts are well coated. Spread the mixture onto a ½ sheet tray lined with a silpat or parchment paper. Bake the nuts in the oven for 18-20 minutes, or until the nuts begin to turn brown slightly. Remove from the oven and let them cool completely.
  4. Prepare the popcorn: I usually pop the corn on top of the stove (but the microwave or an air-popper work great too): Add enough oil to lightly coat the bottom of a 3 quart saucepot, heat it briefly, add the popcorn and cover with a lid. Constantly shake the pan in a gentle back-and-forth motion to prevent the kernels from burning. Within 1-2 minutes the kernels should start to pop. Continue shaking the pan over the heat until 2-3 seconds pass between pops. Pour the popcorn into a large bowl. Add the butter to the empty pan and swirl the pan until the butter is melted. Add the reserved 2 teaspoons of spice mix and stir with the butter over low heat for 2-3 minutes, until the spices are fragrant. Pour the spice butter over the popcorn and mix well.
  5. Final step: Remove the nuts from the sheet tray and break them apart. Add the nuts to the popcorn and toss together. The snack mix will keep in an airtight container for 2-3 days before the popcorn gets stale. The nuts can be stored separately for 2 weeks.