Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Fa la la la la.... (ファ ラ ラ ラ ラ。。。)

Ok, so, technically that's nothing more than a shoddy transliteration at best, but come on now. Christmas carols are a distinctly non-Japanese phenomenon, and when you start getting picky over that sort of thing, there's really no helping you at all.

As those of my readers in the Western hemisphere, Japan, Australia... and, oh, any number of other places may have already gathered (despite, perhaps, some serious effort to the contrary), it is Christmas time once again. Yes, a time when the essences of holly and jolly and a good many other things ending in "olly" (thank you Terry Pratchett) are veritably afloat in the breeze, waiting to assault unsuspecting passerby with unbridled feelings of peace and goodwill towards mankind.

Oh, and humbug to all the Christians that insist on claiming this holiday for their own and keeping it away from all of us heathen types--you stole it first, now we're simply assimilating it back. Besides, the Doctor celebrates Christmas (to an extent), and I've yet to see him at church of a Sunday morning.

What I mean to say, in my odd and rambling way, is of course...

Let's make some gingerbread!

Look, I found a recipe, it's delicious, and I feel like sharing. All right? It's Christmas-time. I think I can be forgiven a little deviance from my Japan-theme at Christmas-time.

If not? ... well, a very merry Bah humbug to you too, sir.

(I may be hinting at my favorite Christmas movie here... but that's for next time.)

Gingerbread! (Credit for the original to Epicurious, of course.)

Yes, so I used the website's picture... I ate all mine, back off.
1 9x9 Baking Pan
1 Electric Mixer + Large Mixing Bowl (Or not, if you're feeling particularly ripped today.)
1 Mixing Bowl
1 Spatula (Or, if you're like anything like me, two spatulas, because the first one just didn't live up to your expectations.)

2 1/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Ground Allspice
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) Unsalted Butter, Softened

2/3 cup Molasses (NOT Blackstrap)
2/3 cup Packed Dark Brown Sugar
2 Large Eggs
3 tablespoons Finely Grated Peeled Fresh Ginger
(Or you can, like I did, use the stuff from a tube. It tastes just dandy, and t's a hell of a lot easier to deal with... though I'm sure Alton Brown wouldn't approve. Let's not tell him, all right?)
2/3 cup Hot Water (Or, um... not. Read on.)

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Yes, fahrenheit. I don't speak your strange centigrade language, at least not willingly. Butter up your baking pan, and no cheating by using cooking spray either. I mean it, butter that bad boy like there's no mañana. Try using the wrapper your butter came in--it might have enough residue to get you by. If not, crack open a new stick (unsalted, of course) and go to town. 

Combine your dry ingredients in the mixing bowl that is not connected to your electric mixer. Not. Quit being difficult. Your dry ingredients, again, are your flour, your baking soda, your spices (cinnamon and allspice) and salt. I usually just mix 'em up with one of the measuring spoons. Yes, I know the cooking show guys don't, but they also don't do their own dishes. This is one point where I'm going to help you more than Alton Brown will, kiddos, trust me. That man's dishwasher must weep nightly...

Slap the rest of your ingredients minus the water into your electric mixer's bowl, then beat on medium until they're combined. I'd go for a paddle attachment if you have one, as the whisk is going to be difficult (but delicious) to clean off. 
Seriously, I told you to use the mixer, don't whine to me now because you didn't want to bother hauling it out on such short notice. That ginger's taking a while to mix in, isn't it? Don't say I didn't warn you, punk. (You'll also notice how quick and easy this step was if you took my advice and used the ginger-in-a-tube method. If you didn't... well... just think of that sore arm as the precursor to rippling biceps. Or Popeye forearms, but hey.)

Reduce the speed on your mixer (or hey, turn it off all together, no rush) and add in your "dry" mix slowly. By this I mean, of course, in batches. You can do the Alton Brown thing and put it all on some sort of easily manipulated platform like a cheapo paper plate for slow and steady loading, or you can improvise in your easily-manipulated-platform-free kitchen and use that cup measure you had out for the flour anyway. In this case, you might want to stop the mixer every time you add in a bit more of the dry stuff, otherwise you run the risk of losing a cup measure to the mixer gods and generally causing a riot in your previously calm and serene kitchen. Not good times. Try and get one dose of dry stuff fairly well blended before adding the next. 

Once all of your dry is mixed in and your mixer is chugging along smoothly, things start to get a little... interesting. See, the recipe says to now add the hot water and mix until combined. I... completely forgot this step, and spent the next ten minutes licking the beater clean. Not to mention it turned out excellently anyway.

So, you know, use your own judgement here.

Pour/scoop/spackle the batter into your buttered pan, and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean. If your oven is anything like mine, you will be amazed, amazed, when it's done t 35 minutes on the nose. This recipe is magical. ...or taking out the water did something magical. Ah HA, who's laughing now, oh recipe author?

This should make about nine squares, and that's how I divided mine up, more or less. Delicious warm from the oven (let it cool for about fifteen minutes first) or microwaved for about 30 seconds in the future. My grandma probably toasts it, and that's all well and good... I just like my gingerbread soft is all. 

I know it doesn't sound like much, but trust me. This stuff is delicious. It will change your mind about gingerbread, believe you me. I am currently plotting my next adventure into the realm of gingerbread as we speak, and technically I screwed up the recipe.

Try it. Your house will smell like Christmas and your family and friends will have the pleasure of a rare, first-hand encounter with prime baked goods. Everyone wins.

This is Edo, signing off and wondering if you can "plot" cookery.

(For those who like their recipes without my exciting color commentary, the original I used is here.)

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