Serves a Crowd

Gingerbread Bars with Hard Sauce Glaze

October  2, 2011
0 Ratings
Author Notes

Once the days shorten and the weather cools, I crave gingerbread. But I don’t care much for gingerbread that’s like cake, so I figured I’d start with a recipe for a bar, perhaps like a blondie, and then substitute molasses for some of the sugar, and add my favorite gingerbread spices. Then I stumbled on Mrs. Rombauer’s “Molasses Brownie” in the 1943 edition of The Joy of Cooking. I like to add a bit of baking chocolate to my molasses cookies – not enough to notice a chocolate flavor, but enough to deepen the flavor and give it just the slightest bitter edge – so I played with the Molasses Brownie recipe to create these gingerbread bars. I use less chocolate and a bit less molasses, substitute brown sugar for white and, of course, add ginger and a good bit of nutmeg. I find cinnamon distracting in gingerbread, so I don’t use it here, but you can add some, of course, if you like. If you decide to use unsweetened chocolate, please be warned: it gives a much stronger bitter edge to the bars, given how relatively little sweetener there is in the batter. Some people like that, others don't. If baking these for a crowd, I strongly recommend using a sweetened dark chocolate. Mr. T suggested I add a fruit brandy to the glaze which, with a bit of melted butter in it, ends up tasting all the world like hard sauce. Enjoy!! ;o) —AntoniaJames

  • Makes one 8" x 8" pan
  • ½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick, or four ounces)
  • 1 ½ ounces dark, lightly sweetened chocolate (or unsweetened, for a more bitter edge)
  • 1/3 cup regular molasses (not light, not blackstrap) (See note below.)
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 ½ - 2 teaspoons ground ginger, to taste
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Pinch of cloves
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon (optional . . . I don’t use it)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • For the glaze
  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 – 2 tablespoon apple brandy (or other brandy, or apple cider)
In This Recipe
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter an 8” x 8” baking dish.
  2. Melt the butter and chocolate together over low heat (or do what I do, which is to put them in a Pyrex one-cup measure and microwave at about 40% for 2 -3 minutes).
  3. Put the melted chocolate and butter into a medium bowl with the molasses and brown sugar. Stir well to combine.
  4. Combine the dry ingredients.
  5. Gently beat the eggs and stir into the wet ingredients, with the vanilla.
  6. Add the dry ingredients and stir just to combine. Do not overbeat.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and bake in the middle of the oven for about 30 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan.
  8. To make the glaze, press the confectioners’ sugar through a fine sieve to remove the lumps. Stir in the melted butter until you have a uniform paste. Add one tablespoon of the brandy, and stir well. Add the rest, a teaspoon or a two at a time, stirring well to incorporate, until you reach the desired consistency. I like it really thin so you just get a slick of sweet flavor across the top of the gingerbread. If you want a bit less brandy taste, dilute the brandy with water.
  9. Enjoy!! ;o)
  10. N.B. You can use blackstrap molasses if you like, but in that case I strongly urge you to use a sweetened chocolate, as the bitter notes with unsweetened baking chocolate will almost certainly overwhelm this. ;o)

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • fiveandspice
  • WinnieAb
  • EmilyC
  • boulangere
  • Bevi

Recipe by: AntoniaJames

When I'm not working (negotiating transactions for internet companies), or outside enjoying the gorgeous surroundings here in Boulder County, CO, I'm likely to be cooking, shopping for food, planning my next culinary experiment, or researching, voraciously, whatever interests me. In my kitchen, no matter what I am doing -- and I actually don't mind cleaning up -- I am deeply grateful for having the means to create, share with others and eat great food. Life is very good. ;o)

31 Reviews

Donna C. January 27, 2016
WOW! This recipe did NOT disappoint! I used La Boîte's "Reims Hot Chocolate and More, No. 39" which is essentially spiced 54% Cacao Chocolate Chips-- these are spiced with honey, star anise, ginger, cinnamon and spices. I therefore eliminated the cinnamon (not a big fan--would've eliminated it anyway), and used freshly microplaned ginger instead of powdered. I took the advice of so many others who wished they'd doubled the recipe, so I did, but used the original amount of glaze, which is perfect. Good Lord, I'm in heaven!
Author Comment
AntoniaJames January 27, 2016
Thank you, Donna, for the kind words but especially for the many excellent suggestions. Sounds so delicious! ;o)
Pamela S. October 4, 2015
So, I am very intrigued by this fabulous recipe. I am planning to use it for the grand finale of opening night Gala featuring all appetizers. I would like to cut small squares to put in a puddle of creme anglaise in little white asian spoons. Just one yummy bite per person. So, my question is, could you please tell me approx. how thick these bars are? I am looking for a bar approx. 3/4". I could certainly change the pan size and time... Wondering if you have any thoughts for me! Any guidance, very appreciated! Thank you!
ees April 4, 2012
simply the best!
fiveandspice December 7, 2011
How on earth did I miss these before?! AJ, these look simply amazing! They are saved and going to be one of our Christmas cookies this year.
WinnieAb October 9, 2011
Wow these look so delicious!
Author Comment
AntoniaJames October 9, 2011
Thank you, WinnieAb! ;o)
ThreeHawaiianGirls October 8, 2011
Just made this today, the flavor is fantastic! I was not expecting such a punch of flavor, it is exactly what I was looking for: deep flavors with denser texture.Thank you for the recipe, it is one I am sure to make again and again. I doubled it to make a 9 x 13 pan, because 8 x 8 is not enough! :)
Author Comment
AntoniaJames October 9, 2011
Thanks so much for letting me know, especially about doubling. What kind of chocolate did you use? I've edited the headnote to warn people that going with unsweetened produces a distinctive bitter "edge." (Some people love it, others don't . . . . It's a decidedly grown-up sensibility, I think). ;o)
ThreeHawaiianGirls October 10, 2011
I used Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips, it was what I had on hand. I thought it turned out fantastic! 1/2 cup (3 ounces) for a 9 x 13 pan. We ate the whole pan, and tomorrow, I am making more. Thanks again!
Author Comment
AntoniaJames October 10, 2011
That's terrific! Thanks so much for letting me know. ;o)
EmilyC October 5, 2011
Oh yum! These look so delicious. I'm a big fan of gingerbread, and I like that these are in bar form.
Author Comment
AntoniaJames October 5, 2011
Thank you, EmilyC! I wanted something that could be cut into finger food size, to make it easier to eat at holiday parties. (I'd cut it into bars about half the size of the pieces shown in the photo.) ;o)
boulangere October 4, 2011
Calvados! I love gingerbread, and what a happy home for something so heady.
Author Comment
AntoniaJames October 5, 2011
Thanks, boulangere! Yes, it's a good match, if I may say so. Rather grown up, too, especially if you use a good French Calvados. ;o)
Bevi October 4, 2011
This is going to my husband's office on Thursday or Friday. I too will be using pear brandy.
Author Comment
AntoniaJames October 5, 2011
Wow, Bevi, I'm honored. Let me know how you like it with the pear brandy! ;o)
Niknud October 4, 2011
Mmmm...molasses and chocolate and ginger and brandy. Oh dear. You really are dangerous aren't you?
Author Comment
AntoniaJames October 5, 2011
Thank you, Niknud . . . Dangerous? Me? Well, maybe, but with the best intentions, of course. ;o)
Midge October 4, 2011
I love the dark chocolate addition and I'm with you on the cinnamon. Saving this to try soon!
Author Comment
AntoniaJames October 5, 2011
Thanks, Midge, I hope you do! I'm working on updating my chewy molasses Christmas cookies, so stay tuned. ;o)
Gingerdaddy October 3, 2011
I'm StI'll recovering from your delicious pear-filled cowboy Coffee cake. Of course I didn't have to eat most of it, I just did. Have all the ingredients on hand, so will make this tonight and serve it with lunch tomorrow. I take it that if I use apple cider for the topping, I use same amount as brandy?
Author Comment
AntoniaJames October 3, 2011
Yes. But add it gradually, so it doesn't get too runny. There's a lot of variation when making glazes, in my experience, due to how densely packed your confectioners' sugar is when you measure it. You may even need more than 1/2 cup, depending on how runny or thick you like the glaze. I'm sure the cider will make it tasty! ;o)
mrslarkin October 3, 2011
Looks so yummy! We must all have gingerbread on the brain. I, too, made some recently - a vegan version. I agree, a little bit of chocolate makes it so so good! Thank you for another delicious recipe, AJ!
Author Comment
AntoniaJames October 3, 2011
You're welcome, mrslarkin, and thank you for your kind words. It's something about September becoming October that has us all thinking about gingerbread . . . Am really interested in your vegan version!! ;o)
drbabs October 3, 2011
This is so funny. I was thinking about a variation on gingerbread just this morning--will post the recipe I dreamed up when I get around to making it.
Author Comment
AntoniaJames October 3, 2011
I hope you do! Can't wait to see it. ;o)
hardlikearmour October 3, 2011
Yum, AJ! I love gingerbread. When you say dark molasses, do you mean black strap?
Author Comment
AntoniaJames October 3, 2011
Actually, that's a good question. I mean dark as in not light. But I think the labeling is now "regular" vs. light, so I'll clarify in the recipe. Of course you can use blackstrap, but in that case, you'd want to use a semisweet chocolate, lest the two different types of bitter notes overwhelm the other flavors. ;o)
TheWimpyVegetarian October 3, 2011
I love this, AJ! Gingerbread is one of my favorites too. I'm working on a gingerbread too that uses some cutie-pie seckel pears I found at the farmer's market. I really love the use of chocolate in yours and your glaze looks fabulous for it. Great job!
Author Comment
AntoniaJames October 3, 2011
Thanks, ChezSuzanne. Yours with the seckel pears sounds simply wonderful. I can't wait to see the recipe. Actually, when I asked Mr. T what we should put in the glaze to pep it up a bit, he said, "Pear brandy." I only have apple on hand (Clear Creek . .. someone here recommended it, ages ago -- what it HLA?? -- and it's exceptionally good), so that's what I use. I have to say that the hard sauce glaze is my favorite new glaze, for this time of year . . . it's so evocative of the great holiday desserts we all enjoy! ;o)