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Friday, April 12, 2013

Lafayette Gingerbread

Here's a wonderful gingerbread recipe that claims descent from one used by George Washington's mother, Mary. The story goes that when the Marquis de Lafayette visited her after the American Revolution she served this wonderful spiked gingerbread to him, thus the name.

I'm not entirely sure how true that story is. The recipe does align with many traditional gingerbread recipes from the southeast including the use of alcohol and brown sugar. There's an old recipe from Charleston that is quite similar that uses whiskey in place of fortified wine as well as a bit more sugar.

Regardless, it's a delicious recipe. I found that it was one of those that works best having "rested" overnight (or ideally 24 hours). This gives the lovely flavors time to meld and develop fully. Right out of the oven the taste of the wine used in the recipe can be a little strong, however by the next day the flavors are perfect.

You'll find this a moist gingerbread that has a delicate crumb. Be sure that if you use raisins that you flour them first and stir them in by hand. Over mixing the batter will turn out a gingerbread that is tough and too chewy!

The Marquis de Lafayette
The recipe calls for Ruby Port, Madeira or Cream Sherry as the alcohol content. All would be great. I chose a bottle of Madeira I had in my wine rack but I also think using some Grand Marnier could be delightful with the fresh orange zest and juice. Also, I think if you do use the raisins, giving them a soak in your alcohol of choice would make this even better!

Speaking of orange juice. I did something a little different with this recipe. Michael recently had to have a new juicer and decided on the Nutri-Bullet from the TV shows. First of all, it works great and I love that it doesn't take up half my counter space like his old one. Since it was sitting next to the mixer I wondered how it would do "juicing" my orange instead of me standing there squeezing out orange juice. Long story short - worked great. I got a wonderful juice (albeit thicker than hand squeezing) that added an extra pop of flavor to the gingerbread that I don't believe I would have gotten otherwise. So, if you have one, consider peeling your orange and using it instead of doing the juicing by hand.

Lafayette Gingerbread

A delicious gingerbread made with fortified wine and fresh orange juice.
Adapted from: From a Southern Oven by Jean Anderson

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup seedless raisins (optional)
  • 1 Tbs. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. ground mace
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. fresh grated orange zest
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup unsulphered molasses
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup ruby Port, Madeira, or cream sherry
  • 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 Tbs. warm water
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350° and spray a 9x9x2-inch baking pan with non-stick spray and set aside. If you are adding raisins, toss them with 1/4 cup of the flour in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Combine flour with spices and salt in a large bowl and whisk lightly to mix.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment cream together butter, brown sugar and orange zest until light (about 3 minutes). Beat in eggs one at a time and continue beating 2 minutes until light. Add molasses and beat just until combined.
  4. With mixer on low, add milk, then Port, and then orange juice alternately with flour mixture. Begin and end with flour mixture. Dissolve baking soda in warm water and mix into batter. If using raisins, fold into batter with a spatula along with all remaining flour. Be careful not to overmix the batter at this point!
  5. Pour batter into prepared pan and use a spatula to spread it evenly. Bake on middle rack of oven about 35-40 minutes or until the gingerbread begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  6. Serve with whipped cream if desired.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes

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