Sometimes, just for fun (and not as an obsession, mind you), I like to think about what different things in the world at which I can still be the best. You see, it seems like there's a finite number of things a man can do and at least one person out there has already devoted his life to at least one of those things, so in order to become an authority, I have to think of more and more specific things. Things that are so specific the talent becomes absolutely pointless. For example, no-one has claimed the title of World's Best Cake Baker Using His Feet, so maybe I can work at it until I am that person. That is, if no-one has actually done it already. And even when I do, it's not a distinction I'd particularly enjoy holding, nor will my cakes be particularly edible (oh, they will, if they're not squeamish).
Maybe in some ways I'm glad not to be a world authority, at least not in terms of baking, because there's no way I can claim to be an expert until I feel like I've satisfactorily explored every theory. And then there are the questions! Everyone interested in that food item will ask me these questions and I will feel pressured to come up with the correct answer even if I usually don't have the answers (there's that happy escape hatch that everyone's oven is different). But I'm still young at (a few days from) 28, there's still enough time to become the world's authority on something that will make a huge impact in the world, like a medical treatment.
But still, in the meantime, I will always groan when I watch a show like So You Think You Can Dance and they have all these agile bodies moving fantastically. I wonder how it feels to wake up and know you are one of the most beautiful people on the planet and you can totally rock a Samba? I've a feeling they don't know either!
So. Gingerbread. The best one I have ever had in my life can be found at Miette in San Francisco. This is, of course, completely subjective. Chris Kimball would probably think it is too flavorful and scary. I love its moistness and assertive spice. Unfortunately, no cookbook is in sight (yet), so I had to look for a substitute and this version from Claire Clark (formerly of The French Laundry) is the closest I've tasted. But don't let comparisons discourage you; it really is phenomenal and you may in fact prefer it over Miette's, not that the difference is that great. This is going to be my first in a series of Gingerbread-related posts. Of course I had to start with the best one! (And no, it wasn't from Tartine!)
Read my review of Claire Clark's Indulge over at The Gastronomer's Bookshelf!
Gingerbread adapted from Indulge: 100 Perfect Desserts
- 120g (8-1/2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 120g (1/2 cup + 1-1/2 tablespoon) soft dark brown sugar
- 220g (3/4 cup minus 1 tablespoon) molasses
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 220g (1-1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons ground ginger
- 1 tablespoon ground allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F). Line a 12-well regular muffin tin with paper liners. In a large bowl, cream the butter, dark brown sugar and molasses together until fluffy and paler in color. Add the eggs a little at a time, beating well after each addition. In a medium bowl, whisk the remaining ingredients together. Sift them over the butter mixture and fold until well-combined. Divide equally between the 12 liners and bake for 23-28 minutes, or until the top springs back when pressed gently. While the cake is baking, make the syrup.
- 200g (1 cup) sugar
- 10g (1/3 ounce) fresh root ginger
- 200g (1 cup minus 2 tablespoons) water
Place all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure the sugar is dissolved. Boil for 4-5 minutes. As soon as the cake is done, pour the syrup evenly over the tops. I used a pastry brush. Don't worry if it appears that the cakes are getting water-logged; the syrup will soon be absorbed and you will be able to add more. Leave the cakes to cool in the tin completely.
- 115g (1 cup) powdered sugar
- 115g (4 ounces) cream cheese, softened
- 35g (2-1/2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a large bowl, sift the sugar over the cream cheese, butter and vanilla and beat until smooth.