In case you’ve not yet heard, it’s been snowing in D.C. Rawther a lot of snow, in fact. Enough snow for pretty much everything to grind to a halt. While there’ve been reported power outages and snowball fights, I was not really feeling either, though, so I turned to the oven. And what could be better on a cold, wintry night than a warm, spicy square of gingerbread?

This version is my hands-down favorite. Author Maida Heatter, grande dame of American baking, reports that she got the recipe from a fishing guide up at Moosehead Lake, Maine, where they know about snow, and clearly about gingerbread as well. It’s substantial, moist, and chewy with an almost savory-sweet zing from molasses, ginger, dry mustard, and black pepper. Great served warm topped with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, it’s also wonderful at room temp, eaten out of hand.  It was also a really nice conclusion to our homemade take out dinner of mala tofu and sweet and sour chicken with vegetables that eased us into an evening of movies. Amen for instant-Netflix.

Moosehead Gingerbread
Maida Heatter’s The Book of Great Desserts
Yield: 8-12 servings

2 1/2 c flour, sifted
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp finely ground black pepper
1/4 lb butter, softened
1/2 c firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1 c molasses
1 rounded tbs instant coffee
1 c boiling water

Adjust rack to center of oven. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 9×9 square baking pan, line with parchment, butter, and flour. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cunnamon, ginger, cloves, mustard, and black pepper. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar till light and fluffy, about 2 min. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl between additions. Beat in the molasses. Dissolve the instant coffee in the boiling water. On low speed, alternately add dry ingredients in three additions, and the coffee–which will still be hot–in two additions. Beat only until smooth. Batter will be quite thin.

Pour into prepared pan. Bake 35 min or until the top springs back lightly when touched. Cool in pan on rack for 10 min. loosen around the edges with a thin metal spatula. Cover pan with rack and invert. Remove pan and reinvert.

Serve warm or cool.

Notes & Variations
Obviously, do substitute a cup of hot, strong coffee for the instant if you’ve got it lying about. I’m not a coffee drinker, though, so I always have some of the instant around for purposes like these.

Heatter, Maida. Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts. (New York: Knopf) 1999.