Gingering Up January

January can be a difficult time for some people. The days are short, the air outside is too cold for comfort (and inside it is too dry for the same), and the colors are austere. There are no fresh vegetables from the frozen garden. The holiday parties are past, and the daffodils are weeks away. For me, January is a mixed bag — I like the return to routine (and the chance to start some new ones) after the new year begins, but it does seem like an extended month somehow. As I notice the barely-perceptibly lengthening days, I feel a piercing longing for I-know-not-what.

Perhaps your January, like mine, could use some gingering up. Our family went out to dinner Monday night — something we cannot remember doing, just because, since — well, since time out of mind. We had heard that a restaurant about 20 minutes away offered a list of their specialty pizzas (the kind meant for one person but that can easily satisfy two) for $6 each on Mondays. Theirs have that great blistery crust you don’t always find on this side of the Atlantic. I chose Crab Dip pizza, which is inspired — crab, red bell pepper, scallion, and a mix of cheeses. Rich, satisfying, and warming — just the thing for a January night.

Another good idea for gingering up your January is to do it literally — bake some gingerbread and surprise the family with an old-fashioned treat. I don’t know that I’ve ever served gingerbread to anyone who didn’t love it. It couldn’t be quicker to stir up, and I predict it will be gobbled up just as fast. You can serve it as dessert, of course, but may I suggest you try it as Marion Cunningham, a great cook and teacher, suggests:

“Years ago gingerbread was often served as bread with supper, and I wish this old custom could be revived. Ham and Bean Soup and gingerbread make a great combination. For a light supper, serve warm gingerbread with applesauce and sharp Cheddar cheese, as the English do; for a lively one, try gingerbread with curried dishes such as kedgeree. With four more tablespoons of sugar added, the flavors are more dessert-like, and the gingerbread becomes Gingercake.” [Lori: I never add the extra sugar even when I’m serving it for dessert.]

Gingerbread
slightly adapted from Marion Cunningham’s The Supper Book
Serves 6
½ c. butter, room temp
¾ c. sugar
1 egg
½ c. molasses
2 c. all-purpose flour
½ t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1 T. ground ginger
1 t. cinnamon
½ t. ground cloves
1 c. boiling water
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour or spray w/ cooking spray an 8 x 8” pan.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar. Add egg and molasses and mix well. Stir in the dry ingredients and blend well. Stir in the boiling water and quickly pour into the baking dish.
  3. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted near center of cake and the sides of the cake shrink a little around the edge of the pan. Serve warm. Leftovers are delicious the next day, too.

Again, from Lori:
One of my favorite ways to serve gingerbread for a “fancy” dessert is to serve warm squares spread with a good schmear of softened cream cheese and topped with a healthy dollop of warm lemon sauce.
What do you like to do to help January be a good month?

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10 Comments

  1. Patricia Miozza
    Posted January 18, 2012 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Lori: Reading your blog for the first time (didn’t realize you had one). I enjoyed reading your thoughts of January and gingerbread. I don’t know why but I haven’t made gingerbread in YEARS! Shame on me!

    I might just make the recipe you posted today and later try to find and compare the one I used before. I like to served it warm with fresh whipped cream.

    I like the idea of serving it with dinner; I would have never thought to do that.

    As much as Autumn is my favorite season, I think January is one of my most favorite months. Life has slowed down just a bit and it is a time I like to regroup and get organized. January has a calming, peaceful feeling for me.

    • Posted January 18, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

      I’m glad you found me! I’m also glad you enjoy January — I do, too, although the weather can get to me sometimes. Hope you make the gingerbread and give us your impressions.

  2. Posted January 18, 2012 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    My mother-in-law sometimes made gingerbread for us. She served it with a warm sauce which was poured over the individual servings. I had already been thinking about making it myself sometime. This reminds me and inspires me:) Thanks for the January thoughts.

    January always goes too fast for me. It feels like the new year is getting starting when it is time for us to take a (sometimes) trek to a lectureship in FL. That is great, but sort of wrecks our new routines. I find myself having a second resolution time in mid-February when we make this trip. Don’t get me wrong! I love the trip. Just speaking in terms of January routines. I love January for its regrouping and refocusing time.

    • Posted January 18, 2012 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

      What sort of sauce did your mil put on the gingerbread, malady? I agree with you about the FL lectureship changing the character of January. We aren’t going this year, so this month I’m feeling more like I used to before we started doing that 4 or 5 years ago.

  3. A
    Posted January 18, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    I love it when you serve Gingerbread as bread or a dessert!
    I think the only time I’ve turned some down is if the baker let it get dry — that isn’t my favorite, but it’s still good.

    I have to admit, your description of January sounds like my description of February — it may be the shortest month, but it *feels* like the longest.

  4. Anonymous
    Posted January 18, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    Never had much gingerbread. Wonder if I’d like this recipe? Is gingerbread a northern thing or was I just deprived growing up in North Alabama?
    Thanks, Lori, for your info and I really like the “funnies” you throw in! 🙂

    Kathy Oliver

  5. Posted January 18, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    I think gingerbread is British, Kathy, so it may be more of a New England thing. I may have first had gingerbread at Williamsburg, but this version is much better. I’m glad you are enjoying the blog, and thanks very much for commenting.

  6. Anonymous
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    We have so many December and January birthdays, (not to mention an anniversary thrown in, and an extended family trip to a state park) I feel like both months whiz past. And a trip to lectures makes it go even faster. I love going to lectures, but this year, I am loving the thought of staying home for that month. March brings a regularly scheduled programming trip to Texas, stretching, for us, the months-passing-at-the-speed-of-light into another month. I love that January does not pull you outdoors; it clears the clutter in my mind, which helps clear the clutter in my house.

    Sylvia

    • Posted January 29, 2012 at 8:34 am | Permalink

      We are staying home in Feb., too, Sylvia. I have mixed emotions — glad for the time, but I know I’ll so miss the experience. I appreciate what you say about clearing the clutter of the mind leading to clearing the clutter of the house. More on that soon from me, I hope.

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