Seasonal Pantry: Cool weather desserts provide comfort, warmth
When life seems overwhelming, and that has certainly been the case locally this fall, spending time in the kitchen can be healing, especially if you aren’t under any pressure, timewise.
That’s a luxury a lot of us don’t have these days but if you can steal a few hours, you’ll be rewarded in several ways.
The first reward is the process of cooking itself, which is both physical and sensual. It is a great way to shut out the world for a while. Turn off television, turn off talk radio, turn up some favorite music, don’t answer the phone, turn off text and email notifications.
The kitchen fills with intoxicating aromas as soon as you cut into, say, fresh ginger or begin to dice pears. These aromas deepen and grow more intense once something is in the oven.
Today’s recipes all feature ginger, which has a sweet, warm and slightly spicy scent; combined with vanilla, it’s almost enough to make you swoon.
Today’s recipes are three of my favorite cool weather desserts. I like making them as much as I like eating them and, honestly, perhaps a bit more.
When I got my first cookbook, at age 8, my favorite recipe was Butterscotch Brownies, which are quite similar to the ones here, but without the ginger or salt. I loved the cooking part but would often forget about them once they were in the oven. Oops.
The aromas of burned brownies are nowhere near as calming as when they are pulled out in time.
When a friend left a basket of ripe Comice pears at my back door a couple of weeks ago, I bit into one and, as its juices ran down my chin and through my fingers, I thought of this gingerbread, which I hadn’t made in years. How could I resist?
These pears were very small, not much bigger than a chicken egg; I used eight instead of the two that the recipe calls for. You want about 2 cups of diced pears.
Some people like to serve whipped cream with this, but I do not think it enhances the gingerbread.
If you want to gild the lily a bit, make ginger butter by mixing a stick of butter with 2 teaspoons of grated fresh ginger and a teaspoon or two of sugar, to taste.
Serve it alongside, for guests to slather as they wish.
Makes 6 to 8 servings
½ cup butter, preferably local, melted
½ cup, packed, brown sugar
1 pastured egg
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
2½ cups sifted all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon mustard flour, such as Colman’s
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup light molasses
½ cup honey
½ cup boiling water
½ cup fresh orange juice
2 large ripe pears, peeled, cored and cut into large dice
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan.