Usually I find a reason to make gingerbread once or twice a year.  There are a lot of good recipes out there, and I’ve tried quite a few over time – from James Beard, to Joy – but I think the version I’m going to use for a while is adapted from Dolores Cassella’s World of Baking, which I praised a year or so ago in one of my cookbook gazetteers.   Cassella followed up by producing another stunning baking book, A World of Breads.  I have relied on both of these fine volumes believe it or not for almost 35 years.

I’ve only made a couple small changes, which I’ll note.  This is very dense, satisfying and keeps extremely well.

1 c boiling coffee (you may use water or orange juice)

1 c butter

1 c dark brown sugar

1 cup dark (not blackstrap) molasses

3 large eggs

2-1/2 c flour – I have been substituting 2 Tbsp cocoa powder for an equal amount of the flour

scant tsp salt

1-1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp ginger

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

and I like to add the grated rind of one orange

I also like to add 1/3 c of chopped crystallized ginger, which gives a nice warmth, and some added texture

Combine the butter, brown sugar and molasses in your mixing bowl and pour the boiling liquid over all, stirring until everything is melted and amalgamated well.  I let it cool to room temperature before beating in the eggs.

Blend the dry ingredients together and add all at once to the wet mixture, beating simply until smooth.  This batter goes into a greased 9 X 2 X 13″ baking pan, and bakes at 325F for 1 hour.

You don’t need to dress this bread up with anything – not even butter, it’s so rich.  However, people do serve this with all sorts of accompaniments.  At the Riverside Cafe in Minneapolis, gingerbread was always a favorite when we served it- our customers often ordered it with a scoop of honey-sweetened, vanilla-scented whipped cream.   It’s also good with ice cream, cream cheese frosting, lemon sauce- you name it.  It is comforting in cold weather, and homey all year ’round.