Gingerbread is one of my pet answers to down days and autumn chill–the aroma of gingerbread baking is incense for the hungry soul, and traditional gingerbread spices, with their anti-inflammatory properties, are actually good for us. This super-easy recipe is a family favorite, and it adds yummy tender pears to the mix. What you end up with is a bit of nourishing, comforting harvest bliss on a plate, so rich you don’t need whipped cream to make it a cozy antidote to any blustery, damp day.
1 cup (2 sticks) plus 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup plus 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons Sucanat or other all-natural organic sweetener, packed (see the Care2 Directory of Natural Sweeteners)
2 Bosc pears, peeled, quartered, cored, and thinly sliced
1/2 cup molasses
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 1/4 tablespoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Pinch of salt
1 1/4 cups boiling water
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
1. Place 4 tablespoons of the butter and the 1/4 cup Sucanat in a 9-inch square cake pan (flameproof) over medium heat (or you could do what I do and use a large iron skillet). Heat until the sugar melts, then add the pear slices in a decorative pattern and remove the pan or skillet from the heat.
2. In a large bowl using an electric mixer, cream together the remaining 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter and the remaining 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons Sucanat until light. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then the molasses.
3. In another bowl, sift together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Fold the dry mixture into the creamed mixture, along with the boiling water, stirring only until all the ingredients are combined. Be careful not to overmix.
4. Smooth batter evenly over the decoratively-arranged pears and bake in preheated oven around 35 to 40 minutes. Cake should feel springy to the touch when done. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then invert it (carefully!) onto a serving plate. Cut into squares (or wedges, if you used an iron skillet) and serve, with whipped cream or Greek yogurt on the side if you like.
Serves 8 to 10.
By Cait Johnson, co-author of Celebrating the Great Mother (Inner Traditions, 1995).