I’m sorry I’ve been gone so long! My computer totally flaked out on me. And now that I’m back (with a brand-new computer!), I feel like I’m kind of cheating. Because this recipe is simply a variation on my beloved Elsie’s Gingerbread, which I posted back in February 2010. But I came up with this variant to make use of some pears that were getting overripe – and the moment I tasted it, I knew I had to share it with you. Right now.
This gingerbread, to put it simply, tastes like Christmas.
It is very spicy from tons of ginger, but the texture is so moist it’s almost like a steamed pudding. It’s exhilarating yet comforting, warming and soulful. The pears and raisins add a note reminiscent of mincemeat (which is just a mixture of dried fruit and spices that once contained beef suet, but usually doesn’t anymore – if you haven’t tried it, you should, because it’s delicious), increasing the holiday feel. With one bite, visions of sugarplums will dance in your head. (What’s a sugarplum? It’s an old word for a hard candy. No fruit involved. Go figure.)
A food processor makes this recipe come together quite speedily, but you can assemble it by hand as well.
Holiday Gingerbread with Raisins and Pears
1 large pear, unpeeled and chopped
1.5 cups unbleached white flour
1/4 cup candied ginger (or more, if you prefer!)
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1.5 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into four chunks
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 scant teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons molasses
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup raisins (I may try soaking these in rum next time)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease (or spray with Pam) an 8-inch round or square baking pan. Spread the chopped pear in the bottom and set aside.
Combine flour and candied ginger in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to break the ginger up into smaller pieces. Add sugar, ground ginger, and cinnamon, then the butter. Pulse to cut the butter into the dry ingredients. The finished mixture should be like damp sand, with pebbles of butter and candied ginger no larger than peas. Move flour mixture to a large bowl.
(Alternately, chop the candied ginger with a knife – it helps to spray the knife with Pam – and set aside. Combine flour, sugar, and spices in a large bowl. Cut the butter into the flour mixture with two knives or a pastry cutter, or rub in with your hands. Stir in candied ginger and continue with recipe.)
Measure out 1/4 cup of mixture to use as streusel and set aside.
Stir baking soda and salt into buttermilk; add molasses and egg and blend well. Pour into dry ingredients and stir together just until thoroughly combined. Gently stir in raisins. Pour over pears in prepared baking pan; top with the set-aside streusel mixture. Bake for about 45 minutes, until the center is firm to the touch and a cake tester comes out clean. (The streusel mixture will likely have moved into the center; that’s fine.)
This is best served warm from the oven, with whipped cream, in a cozy chair next to a crackling fire. You can serve it at room temperature too, and without the fire; all that ginger will still warm you very nicely.