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If we’re lucky | Kabocha, Olive Oil & Chocolate Cake

If we’re lucky | Kabocha, Olive Oil & Chocolate Cake

Gjelina Kabocha Cake | Delightful CrumbThese last few months have felt like an interim to me, a period tucked between the last concrete set of experiences and something else yet to be revealed. I’ve called it by many names: in-between, transition, season, interlude. That’s certainly what it feels like, even now. But a couple of weeks ago, I realized something. It’s quite a bit more likely that this isn’t the in-between of anything. The crystal clear moments, it seems to me, are the rare ones. What I’m experiencing now? Perhaps this is life.

Throughout my childhood—and I know I’m not alone in this—the idea of the in-between was entirely absent. This continued into college, when the path still seemed relatively clear and simple, mostly because I didn’t yet know the wildness of the world, its myriad opportunities, roadblocks, surprises. No one mentioned that my sense of this path might change once I’d left behind the rhythm of an academic calendar, so after college, I kept trying to wrap definitions around the seasons of my life, doing my best to identify what each one was about and where it was taking me. Job applications, waiting, moving, a layoff: these were transitions, hinges between the better, sturdier, more important parts of my life, the ones that made sense. But maybe it’s not a structure I’m building, or even a path that I’m on. Maybe it’s a painting—and an abstract one at that.

Clarity is golden and comfortable but elusive. We live much more of our lives in the hazy space, where direction and purpose and the meaning behind events and experiences aren’t obvious at all.

I was listening to a Dear Sugar podcast today, part of a series in which Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond talk about singleness, finding “the one” and the idea of scarcity. The whole thing is worth a listen, relevant as it is to the current state of relationships. In this particular podcast, they spoke with Kate Bolick, author of Spinster. For a long time, Bolick explains, she looked at her life through the binary of single v. married, waiting to see which it would be. As she writes to open the book, “Whom to marry, and when will it happen—these two questions define every woman’s existence.” But then one day, when she was about thirty-five, she woke up and thought, What am I waiting for? She realized that her life, as it stood at that moment, was fantastic. She didn’t need to wait for a life partner for the story to begin. It was a great life already.

The principle applies here, too. This moment is pretty great, in its own weird way, and I’d hate to miss it. It’s taking me an awfully long time, but I’m gradually coming to terms with the fact that life doesn’t always—or rather, doesn’t usually—make sense in the logical, all-the-puzzle-pieces-fit way I once expected. The truth, I think, is that sometimes we just wait, doing our best to set aside anxiety around the question of what it is we are waiting for. We carry on. Celebrate what we have and know, right now. Enjoy it to the extent that we can. And, if we’re lucky, eat cake.

Gjelina Kabocha Cake | Delightful Crumb

Kabocha, Olive Oil & Bittersweet Chocolate Loaf Cake

Adapted from Travis Lett’s Gjelina: Cooking from Venice, California

On our trip to LA last spring, Gjusta Bakery, sister project to Gjelina and also owned by Travis Lett, was the one place we visited twice. If LA wasn’t so full of incredible things to eat, I could have gone every day, multiple times. It’s that good. This is a beautiful cookbook, full of the sort of vibrant dishes that put Gjelina and Gjusta Bakery on the map, from creative vegetable dishes to epic mushroom toast to this sturdy, flavorful cake.

The glaze puts this cake more in the tea time/dessert category for me, so you could leave it off if you want a less decadent breakfast treat. However, I think the decadence would be worth it, even at breakfast, because it’s a fantastic touch. The pepitas and cacao nibs lend great texture, and it’s gorgeous to boot. The original recipe calls for kabocha squash, but since I’m no longer finding that variety at my market, I used butternut, which was delicious. I am sure acorn squash or pumpkin would cooperate here as well. Draining the roasted squash is a great trick, and the deeper flavor and lovely crumb that result are worth the extra wait.

Serves 8 to 10

One 1-lb (455-g) piece kabocha or butternut squash, seeded

Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling, plus 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon (255 ml)

Butter, for the pan

1 1/2 cups (180 g) all-purpose flour (or use half all-purpose and half white whole wheat or whole wheat pastry)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons freshly ground nutmeg

3/4 teaspoons kosher salt

1 cup (200 g) to 1 1/3 cups (265 g) natural cane sugar, depending on your preference for sweetness and your choice of squash

3 large eggs, lightly whisked

8 ounces (230 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

3 tablespoons raw pepitas

FOR THE OLIVE OIL GLAZE

1 1/4 cups (150 g) confectioners’ sugar, plus more as needed

2 tablespoons hot water, plus more as needed

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons lightly crushed cacao nibs

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. On a baking sheet, drizzle the squash with olive oil, turn the piece cut-side down and cook until very soft and beginning to caramelize around the edges, 30 to 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Scrape out the squash flesh and transfer to a food processor. Pulse until smooth.

Place a large piece of cheesecloth in a colander set over a bowl. Put the puréed squash in the cheesecloth and wrap tightly. Allow the squash to drain at least 4 hours, or up to overnight. Squeeze by twisting the cheesecloth to remove any excess water. Unwrap the drained squash and measure out 1 cup (225 g). You can do this up to a few days ahead of baking. Leftover squash can also be saved; keep it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the sugar, olive oil, squash purée and eggs. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the squash mixture. Whisk until just combined, taking care not to overmix. Stir in the chopped chocolate.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until browned on top and a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 75 to 90 minutes. If it is browning too quickly, tent with foil. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Then, run a knife around the edges and invert the cake from the pan. Let cool on the rack for another 20 minutes.

In a small, dry frying pan over medium heat, gently toast the pepitas until fragrant and beginning to brown, about 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Make the glaze. In a small bowl, whisk the confectioners’ sugar with 2 tablespoons hot water until you have a thick glaze. Add more confectioners’ sugar or water as needed to create a smooth glaze with a thickness reminiscent of honey. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly.

Place a sheet of parchment paper beneath the cooling rack. Pour the glaze over the cake, allowing it to drip over the sides. Sprinkle with the cacao nibs and toasted pepitas and let the glaze set completely before serving, about 1 hour.

The cake will keep in an airtight container for several days. It also freezes well.

Gjelina Kabocha Cake | Delightful Crumb

Turkish Fried Eggs (Or, How to Beat the Winter Blues)

Turkish Fried Eggs (Or, How to Beat the Winter Blues)

Turkish Fried Eggs | Delightful Crumb

Come January’s end in the Bay Area, it feels to me like springtime. I imagine this sensation has mostly to do with the fact that I go back home to Michigan over the holidays, and after that sort of cold and ice, this weather—along with the blue skies, leafy plants and blooming trees—seems awfully springlike indeed! Nor does it hurt that at this point, I’m open to anything that keeps on inspiring the feeling of newness brought on by a new year. But I do insist there’s something to it. The sunshine is warmer, and the air clear and wet and clean, the way I remember it feeling in my lungs when I was a kid and finally outside without layers upon layers of clothing, ready to stomp through puddles and (prematurely) run barefoot down the block.

It’s not springtime, of course. If those of you in the colder and snowier parts of the world actually continued reading beyond that first paragraph, especially without cursing beneath your breath, please forgive me for bringing up the sunshine so callously, and know that I’m well aware that it sure as heck doesn’t feel anything like spring to you. Even here, we’re had plenty of rain (and thank goodness for it!), which is springlike, sure, but not the best prompting for getting outdoors or, at least for me, staying happy and hopeful. We’ve got snow and rain showers aplenty to endure before the season really changes, and though I’ve protested this fact to varying degrees throughout my life, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

With the seasons, there’s plenty of waiting it out, of moving in and out, of liking some things more than others. That this aspect of the seasons is reflected in life has been a strange reality for me to grasp, to be honest, but one that I’ve come to peace with over time. At least things aren’t staying the same, someone said to me a very long time ago, when I was in the midst of a very different season. It’s stuck with me all this time.

It’s hard, though, the waiting, the storms, the confusing parts of our stories, being trapped indoors when you’ve got things to do. If that resonates with you, if you’re feeling stuck or blue, I have a small but brilliant thing that should help. This breakfast (or brunch, or lunch) is incredibly easy to whip up, thus launching your ordinary weekday with a little extra pizzaz. You simply fry a couple of eggs, char a piece of pita or flatbread, slather that bread with yogurt and top it with the eggs, pepper flakes and lots of herbs. It’s rich but still light, full of flavor and brightness from all of those herbs and very delicious.

I must say, it’s silly that it took me this long to share something from Anna Jones‘ wonderful cookbook A Modern Way to EatI think it’s because it was too hard to choose—I’ve baked and cooked so many things from it throughout the last few months. To name just a few: Sweet & Salty Tahini Crunch Greens, Seeded Banana Bread, Chickpea & Preserved Lemon Stew, Pistachio & Squash Galette, Butterscotch Blondies. All have been delightful, just like their author’s voice and style. The whole book is cheery and full of great ideas for wholesome meals that aren’t too complicated. I especially love Jones’ creative take on vegetable dishes, where she puts a new twist on ingredients and concepts I thought couldn’t ever surprise me again, without ever making the recipes too complicated or fussy. I also love the baked goods, of course, which are simple and wholesome and fun. She even offers maps to building your own soups, smoothies, salads and the like, breaking down the complexity of everyday, recipe-less cooking. This book would pave the way for a very good start to the new year in the kitchen, if you’re looking for such a thing, in the sense of deliciousness and health alike.

And if this meal isn’t enough to beat the blues and keep you feeling hopeful for springtime, I also recommend heaps of citrus, lunch with friends, getting out into the sunshine whenever possible, this article and Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic (friendly and funny encouragement to get off our bums and do the work, put fear in its place, live vibrant, creative lives, etc.).

Spring will come soon enough. Let’s do our very best to enjoy these moments, too.

Turkish Fried Eggs

Adapted from Anna Jones’ A Modern Way to Eat

Serves 2

4 tablespoons Greek yogurt or labneh

Sea salt

Butter or olive oil

4 eggs

2 whole wheat pitas or flatbreads

1 teaspoon Aleppo or Maras chile flakes

Sumac

A few sprigs each of fresh mint, parsley and dill, leaves picked and roughly chopped

Freshly cracked pepper

Mix the yogurt or labneh with a big pinch of sea salt and set aside.

Fry the eggs to your liking. Here’s my method: Heat a large skillet over low-to-medium heat. Add a good-sized pat of butter or a generous pour of olive oil and let it warm. If using butter, it should melt and then begin to foam. Add the eggs. If you like, spoon the butter or olive oil over the eggs as they cook. Or, cover the pan with a lid for a minute or two, which also helps with even cooking. I sometimes splash in a bit of water at this point as well, to the same end. Anna Jones and I share the same preference for fried eggs, which I think is quite delightful here: just set, the edges beginning to crisp up and the yolk very runny.

While the eggs cook, toast the pita or flatbread until lightly browned and charred in places. If you have a gas stove and it strikes your fancy, you can char the edges a bit over the flames. Since this is such a simple dish, I think it’s worth the extra effort to make sure you get some good texture and flavor from the bread.

Top each pita with a spoonful of yogurt and two fried eggs. Finish with the chile, a generous sprinkling of sumac and the herbs. Season with salt and pepper, and enjoy!

Doing it Again | Ribollita with Winter Squash

Doing it Again | Ribollita with Winter Squash

Ribollita | Delightful CrumbI’m a sucker for all things New Year-related. I love reflecting on the past and tend toward nostalgia. I’m always grateful for the blank canvas that a new year provides, even though I’ve come to realize that it will eventually be covered with the same sort of strange, delightful, wandering, maddening brushstrokes that are, quite simply, the stuff of life. Over here in my little corner of the world, 2015 was weird, I’ll give you that. I don’t know what it was all about, or where the arc of its story is leading. But I think that’s a pretty normal feeling, and 2016 could very well be just as confusing and unexpected. Perhaps this realization would sour some against the whole idea of celebrating the new year, but somehow it endears me to it. I love the cadence of the turning of the calendar page, the idea of starting fresh, the hopefulness that bubbles up even when we don’t feel all that hopeful. (Plus, champagne!)

And then there are resolutions. My affinity for them likely has something to do with my love of lists and words and planning—but it’s more than that. The act of making resolutions is a proclamation that we believe we can change and grow and become better, truer versions of ourselves. That we don’t have to be stuck. And I, for one, can feel very stuck from time to time, so I’ll take all the help I can get. But I also appreciate the critique of resolution-making that’s been sounding loudly these past couple of years. Because it’s true that we can go way overboard with all of this: cleanses and big promises and flash diets and extreme commitments that few humans could manage to keep up for more than a few weeks. So this year, I started with a list of things that I’ve changed or accomplished in recent years—in other words, resolutions I don’t need to make. I’ve increased my consumption of books (novels, even!), tidied up our home, changed my purchasing habits to better align with my values, stopped leaving piles of papers that need attention all over my apartment, caught my stride in the realm of simple meals, learned much more about wine, made great nut milks and butter, baked a few beautiful layer cakes and mastered my egg-making techniques. That is, I’m making progress.

Ribollita | Delightful CrumbBen and I made it home from our holiday travels on New Year’s Eve around 11pm, just in time to pop a bottle of champagne, toast some ciabatta I’d stored in the freezer and slather it with goat cheese and garlic confit (something I really ought to tell you about soon!) and hunker down under a blanket to watch the ball drop. And then we fell asleep on the couch. It was perfect. We thus started the new year with no hangovers to speak of, and January 1 was a glorious day, complete with a long walk in the sun, big bowls of delicious pozole and plenty of confetti at Camino, the new Star Wars film at our favorite old theatre and a cozy dinner at home. And then I succumbed to a nasty cold, so the rest of 2016 to date has been less than grand.

But you know what? That’s life. And we’re doing it. Whether last year was weird or wonderful, full of joy or brokenheartedness, you made it through, and I bet you learned something. I bet you came out on the other side stronger, wiser and more resilient. So here’s to doing it again in 2016.

I don’t know about you, but the thing I most want to eat as the chaos of the holiday season winds down is soup, and lots of it. In my book, ribollita is just the thing for cold January nights—and also, as it happens, for any resolutions that might have to do with simple cooking, using leftovers and/or healthful meals. I’ve been making a version of Tamar Adler‘s ribollita for the last few years, and the recipe that follows reflects much of her instruction. More recently, though, Ben and I went to a holiday market at Pizzaiolo and had a wonderful rendition that was made by layering roasted squash and toasted bread beneath a delicious vegetable-and-bean-filled broth, finished with olive oil and shaved parmesan. We’ve picked up that method at home, and this is the cobbled-together result.

Ribollita | Delightful Crumb

Ribollita with Winter Squash & White Beans

Inspired by Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal & Pizzaiolo in Oakland, CA

Serves 4

1 small butternut squash or 2 large sweet potatoes, cubed

Olive oil

Aleppo pepper flakes (optional)

Sea salt

About 2 cups bread, cut or torn into 1-inch pieces (I like to use a sturdy sourdough and don’t remove the crusts)

1 onion, diced

2 stalks celery or 1/2 bulb fennel, diced (optional)

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 sprigs rosemary or thyme, stemmed and minced

1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste

1 14-oz. can peeled whole tomatoes or chopped tomatoes (I like to use the fire-roasted variety for an extra punch of flavor)

2 cups (or 1 14-oz. can) cooked white beans (cannellni, gigante, Great Northern and garbanzo beans all work nicely)

2 – 4 cups vegetable broth, water or liquid from cooking beans

1 small bunch kale, stemmed and chopped

A few sprigs fresh flat leaf parsley, leaves picked and chopped (optional)

Parmesan cheese, shaved into ribbons

Freshly cracked pepper

Start by roasting the squash or sweet potato. Toss the cubed squash or sweet potato with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch each of Aleppo pepper flakes and salt. Roast at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes or until cooked through, tossing once. This can be done up to a few days ahead; store in an airtight container in the refrigerator and bring up to temperature before using.

While the oven is on, make the croutons as well. Toss the torn bread with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Arrange on a baking sheet and toast for about 15 – 20 minutes, until the bread is golden brown and beginning to blacken in places. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

To make the soup, warm a generous drizzle of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, celery or fennel (if using), garlic and a pinch of salt. Once the vegetables begin to soften, add the rosemary or thyme and red pepper flakes. Cook for another minute or two, then add the tomatoes. If using peeled whole tomatoes, break them up roughly with a wooden spoon. Add the beans and 2 cups of broth. Bring the soup to a gentle simmer and cook for several minutes to cook the vegetables through and allow the flavors to meld.

Add the chopped kale and additional broth, to your preference. Remember that you’ll be adding this to squash and toasted bread, so you want a fairly brothy soup. Turn the heat down to low, cover the pot and cook until the kale is wilted. Taste the soup and adjust seasoning as needed.

To serve, fill each bowl with a scoop of roast squash and a small handful of toasted bread. Ladle the soup over top, finishing with a generous drizzle of olive oil, ribbons of Parmesan cheese, a sprinkle of parsley and freshly cracked black pepper.

One happy morning

One happy morning

Festive lights | Delightful CrumbI hope you’re deep in cookies and hot toddies at this point, my friends, or at least very close! In the past week or so, we’ve had gingerbread and mulled wine, fancy cheese and champagne, peppermint chocolate and lots of tea. We’ve watched plenty of holiday movies, participated in festive shopping around town and, today, observed our nieces and nephews meeting Santa, which was a pretty delightful sight. The shop has been full of friends and family reuniting over glasses of wine and folks seeking out the right bottles for the various celebrations at hand. Between a slew of lovely holiday parties and a bumpy plane ride back to our home state, we had a cozy celebration of our own, complete with wildly amazing mushroom toast à la Gjelina and some excellent wine. And I saw travelers being kind to each other at the airport, which was a bit of a shock but certainly served to lift my spirits.

And speaking of lifted spirits, remember what I told you about my holiday mixtapes, listened to as I drifted off to sleep at night throughout the Decembers of my childhood? I was first reminded when Ben played Stevie Wonder’s That’s What Christmas Means to Me a couple of weeks ago. That song was a favorite from one of my playlists, but I didn’t think Stevie Wonder’s version was the one I’d grown up with. I thought that my old favorite was sung by two black women, and that they bantered at the end of the song, something about wrapping presents and unwrapping presents. I searched the internet but didn’t find what I remembered, which led me to ponder if perhaps I’d spent my childhood mistaking Stevie Wonder for a woman.

Thankfully, I’m saved that embarrassment. It turns out that the rendition I knew best was Paul Young’s, followed on my personal playlist by Ronnie Spector and Darlene Love singing Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree. At the end of that song, there’s the banter I recall, including a moment in which one of the ladies corrects the other’s grammar, which young-Stacy found pretty hilarious.

In this hunt for the song of my childhood, I (re)discovered Stevie Wonder’s album Someday at Christmas. Its best songs are the aforementioned and the title track, which most folks these days probably associate with Justin Bieber and/or Apple. But I am a sentimental sap, and so it is bringing me to tears over and over this season anyway. Ben and I have dubbed it our official song of Christmas 2015. I think it’s awfully appropriate and so am leaving you with a few lines today, with all of my best wishes for a very merry Christmas for you and yours.

“Someday at Christmas,” by Ron Miller & Bryan Wells

Someday at Christmas men won’t be boys
Playing with bombs like kids play with toys
One warm December our hearts will see
A world where men are free

Someday at Christmas there’ll be no wars
When we have learned what Christmas is for
When we have found what life’s really worth
There’ll be peace on earth

Someday at Christmas we’ll see a land
With no hungry children, no empty hands
One happy morning people will share
A world where people care

Someday all our dreams will come to be
Someday in a world where men are free
Maybe not in time for you and me
But someday at Christmastime
Someday at Christmastime

Traditions & Gingerbread

Traditions & Gingerbread

Megan Gordon's Gingerbread | Delightful Crumb Megan Gordon's Gingerbread | Delightful Crumb Megan Gordon's Gingerbread | Delightful CrumbFor me, the holiday season starts with Thanksgiving and continues on until at least January 1, perhaps even longer if I’m so inclined. The days in between are like a long unpacking of traditions and gatherings and other such joy-filled things. When I was young, I spent many of those days anticipating Christmas morning, as children tend to do, but there were plenty of markers along the way that I loved nearly as well. As an adult, I adore it all the same.

We went to the most charming of Christmas tree farms while I was growing up, the sort of place that could be featured in a sitcom’s holiday special. There were rows and rows of trees to wander through, which we of course did, pretending to get lost in the rows, comparing one tree against the other. While my dad cut the tree down, my sister and I would retreat to the big bonfire where we would sit as close as possible, our snow pants in danger of melting at the knees. We were allowed to get hot chocolate or apple cider and maybe even a freshly made donut or Christmas tree cookie, frosted a unnatural shade of green. Sometimes I’d opt instead for a candy cane that I’d drop into my hot chocolate, peppermint infusing the chocolate, like a Starbucks Peppermint Mocha but better. We paid for the tree on the way out, at a little kiosk like the ones in a parking garage. They’d reach through the window to hand us popcorn balls, one for each of us. These were my mom’s favorite, harkening back to her own childhood.

At home, my dad would maneuver the tree into the house (never an easy task) and string on the lights. Soon, we would be pulling the decorations out of their yearlong hibernation, each one holding some sort of memory or meaning. My dad put his collection of Santa ornaments near the top, and we meticulously considered the placement of everything else. (As it happens, everyone in my family is as ridiculously thorough as I am. Clearly that one runs in our blood.) The tinsel was always a source of tension. My dad would put it on in handfuls, while my mom preferred something a little more delicate, and I’ve got to say that I sided with her on that one. I think I recall watching her sneak back to remove the excess when my dad had gone a bit overboard—which, if you know my mom, is pretty surprising, as she generally does very little sneaking.

My sister and I had miniature Christmas trees of our own, too, and after the big tree was decorated, we’d escape upstairs to adorn them with tiny ornaments and tuck little origami boxes constructed from past years’ Christmas cards beneath their branches. My tree’s lights were on a timer, switching on as dusk fell and twinkling until I was fast asleep—magic for a romantic like me.

And the tree was just the beginning. We did a Secret Santa exchange as a family, little gifts hidden for each other in the weeks before the holiday. We watched Christmas movies and old TV specials and listened to favorite albums. We made all kinds of cookies, reveling in the whir of the press we used to make spritz cookies, carefully decorating dozens of homemade sugar cookies shaped like trees and stockings and angels. My grandma would sometimes send tins of her classics: peanut butter balls and peanut brittle and soft caramels that melt in your mouth. We lit Advent candles and caroled and wrapped presents and drove out into the country to look at Christmas lights.

We’re still working out our traditions, me and Ben, as married people and Californians. We get a tree from the stand at the farmers market and decorate it with our funny collection of ornaments. We’ve introduced each other to favorite holiday albums and found a few together as well. There are work parties and gatherings with friends. We always have a special dinner of some sort, just the two of us, before we head back to Michigan for a flurry of family activity. The food, though, I haven’t figured out. I know we’ll be making and/or eating all of the most important-to-me treats of the season once I make it back to my parents’ house: hazelnut cookies, the tremendous cinnamon roll wreath my mom makes for Christmas morning, my dad’s fudge and party mix. And there are a few treats I don’t need each year but am keeping in my back pocket, like the elaborate Santa cookies my mom made throughout my childhood, a tradition I plan to reignite when I have my own kids. These last few years, I’ve baked a wide variety of things, following my whims and whatever catches my eye on the internet and in magazines. I’ve made several types of shortbread, sparkling cranberries, maybe punch if there’s an occasion for it. It’s all delicious, of course, but nothing quite makes it into perennial rotation. But with this gingerbread, I think I finally have a keeper.

There are a lot of opinions about gingerbread, I’m learning, and many ways to make it. I started with Yvette Van Boven’s rendition from Home Made Winter, mostly because I actually had everything needed to make it on hand when the inspiration struck. This gingerbread is very much a bread, with hardly any fat involved and a nice hit of spice. It is excellent toasted, especially with butter and/or jam, or dunked into coffee or tea. I also made Melissa Clark’s version from Cook This Now, a sticky little number with pockets of jammy cranberries throughout. I brought it to a dinner with friends on Friday night and, taking Ms. Clark’s advice, made boozy whipped cream to serve alongside. We were out of bourbon, so I used scotch, and perhaps a little bit too much. But no one complained—in fact, they took seconds. Though pitched as a homey affair, I would bring this to another party in a heartbeat. As so many us have learned, it turns out that what people really want at the end of a meal with friends is something humble and not precious in the least, something delicious and maybe a little messy. This fits the bill.

But when it comes to everyday gingerbread, Megan Gordon’s is the one I want. My cake preferences always align with hers, so it’s really no surprise. But this gingerbread is truly excellent: deeply spiced, full of flavor and sturdy, with a nice, dense crumb. I ate it morning, afternoon and night. It was perfect on every occasion and is worthy of tradition status, indeed.

Megan Gordon's Gingerbread | Delightful Crumb

Whole-Grain Gingerbread

Adapted from Megan Gordon’s Whole-Grain Mornings

Serves 9 to 12

3/4 cup (120 g) whole wheat flour

1 cup (120 g) spelt or white whole wheat flour, plus additional for the pan

1/2 cup (75 g) packed brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 cup (25 g) chopped crystalized ginger (optional)

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons grated mandarin or orange zest

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

8 tablespoons (115 g) unsalted butter, plus additional for the pan

1/2 cup (120 ml) blackstrap molasses

3 tablespoons honey

1/2 cup (120 ml) whole milk

1/4 cup (60 ml) plain yogurt (anything on the spectrum from nonfat to whole will work just fine)

1 large egg, beaten

Powdered sugar, for decorating (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch round or square pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking soda, salt, various types of ginger, cloves, cinnamon, orange zest and pepper. Use your hands to break up any clumps of sugar. Whisk well.

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the molasses and honey and cook, stirring, until the mixture is warm but not yet boiling. Pour into the flour mixture and stir to combine. Add the milk, yogurt and egg; fold together until combined. The mixture should look like a loose brownie batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the edges pull away from the pan slightly and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let the gingerbread cool completely in the pan before slicing and serving. Dust lightly with powdered sugar before serving, if desired.

Store in a tightly closed container at room temperature for up to 4 days.