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
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)
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
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter an 8” x 8” baking dish.
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).
Put the melted chocolate and butter into a medium bowl with the molasses and brown sugar. Stir well to combine.
Combine the dry ingredients.
Gently beat the eggs and stir into the wet ingredients, with the vanilla.
Add the dry ingredients and stir just to combine. Do not overbeat.
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.
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.
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)