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.]
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour or spray w/ cooking spray an 8 x 8” pan.
- 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.
- 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.