I’m about to threaten to sanctitude of the January fasting trend. When most post exclusively about oat bran, cottage cheese, steamed vegetables and fatless delights, I’m gonna go all merry on you and post a few pics of our humble home dinner and on top of that a cake. Well….
This isn’t strictly an indulgence. In fact, hidden in our sumptuous feast were a few healthy gems that warrant a shared recipe, c/o of my illustrious and culinarily talented roommates (namely, a food-hangover-curing cucumber salad that washed away the pain in the morning). And so I’ll get to that next post, but before all that, I think what strikes me as most funny about our Christmas dinner (or rather, Skidsmess dinner) is that despite our newschool personalities and post-traditional decisions in life, our food on the other hand put our parents to shame in the category of classic holiday flavorgasmicing. And maybe that was our rebellion. And foodie fist pump in the air, ’cause my parents haven’t gone through the effort to roast things since us kids became fully grown, and some of the “kids” at the table couldn’t go home for dinner at all. So we cooked. And cooked. And cooked.
There were duck fat roast potatoes, two kinds of chili (hemp & sweet potato / chipotle and beef) with sour cream and coriander. There was stuffing, mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli, a non-gravy made with kasserli cheese, edam cheese, apricot jam and cognac. There was an expertly roasted and very juicy grain-fed chicken cooked with butter, thyme, and a whole boiled lemon pierced with zest-vents inside (bread stuffing added after roasting for artistic effect and more sanitary cooking ;). There were piles of warm naan bread, a pomegranate-studded fennel and sprout salad, and a huge jar of sharp pickled cucumbers, and I’m probably forgetting something, too.
Oh yeah! I made tourtiere! Fortunate enough to get a surplus of ground beef recently, I added some fresh pork loin cut into nubbly squares to that, along with some heavy medieval spices, softened vegetables, red wine and fresh thyme, and packed it into an old-school superflaky lard-based crust that tasted ever so slightly of graham crackers, owing to a touch of brown sugar and a touch of spelt flour. With loads of ketchup on top, it was comfort food perfection.
I seriously had not tasted old-school holiday dinner joy like this in years, made all the better for knowing that we scraped this together as a team, and with generousity in our hearts. If one could not cook, one brought wine. Or made Bloody Marys. Or whatever, brought their smiling face. And the wine, of course, flowed, as it always does around here when it’s cold, and despite packing our bellies to bursting, I couldn’t help but suggest just one more edible, and presented the meal finale with a flourish of table-side frosting application: a deeply spiced and impossibly moist gingerbread stout cake flooffed with fresh dollops of pumpkin-pie chantille and scattered with crushed ginger cookie crumbs. The kind of angelic yet sinful cake that comes cut in huge artful slabs and somehow disappears in a few short, gigantic, happy bites.
Guinness Stout Gingerbread Cake
Nigella Lawson’s recipe and absolutely fab – the batter is liquid, it seems crazy, but that liquidiness makes it so MOIST it practically melts away as you eat it. I used an Aphrodisiac stout from local microbrewery Au Dieu du Ciel, which has flavours of cocoa, vanilla, bourbon, and roasted malt.
- 1 1/4 sticks 10 (tablespoons) butter, plus some for greasing
- 1 cup golden syrup (such as Lyle’s)
- 1 cup (packed) plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 1 cup stout beer (such as Guinness)
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 1/4 cups sour cream
- 2 eggs
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Line a 13×9-inch cake pan with aluminium foil and grease it, or grease a 13×9-inch foil tray.
Put the butter, syrup, dark brown sugar, stout, ginger, cinnamon and ground cloves into a pan and melt gently over a low heat.
Take off the heat and whisk in the flour and baking soda. You will need to be patient and whisk thoroughly to get rid of any lumps.
Whisk the sour cream and eggs together in a measuring jug and then beat into the gingerbread mixture, whisking again to get a smooth batter.
Pour this into your cake/foil pan, and bake for about 45 minutes; when it’s ready it will be gleamingly risen at the centre, and coming away from the pan at the sides.
Let the gingerbread cool before cutting into slices or squares.
Pumpkin Pie Chantille
I concocted this magic fluff by way of using up a leftover 1/2 batch of pumpkin pie truffle filling. The ganache is dense, but the cookies and cream cheese give it a melting softness, and once folded into freshly whipped cream, it attains a barely sweet height that tastes like the essence of pumpkin pie + whipped cream without all that distraction of having to eat two things. It’s fabulous.
Truffle base heavily adapted from a Whole Foods recipe.
- 200 grams white chocolate
- 1/2 cup gingersnap or graham cookie crumbs
- 1/2 cup canned pumpkin purée
- 2 tsp confectioners’ sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon + 1/8 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
- Pinch of fine salt
- 1 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 500 mls of heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup crushed ginger cookie crumbs, for topping
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over medium-low heat or in the microwave for about 1 minute. Stir often to keep the chocolate from burning. Transfer to a large bowl. Add gingersnap crumbs, pumpkin, graham cracker crumbs, sugar, zest, cinnamon, salt and cream cheese and beat with an electric mixer or wooden spoon until smooth. Transfer to a shallow bowl, cover and let rest on the counter until cool. (You can store in in the fridge at this point, but let it come to room temperature before adding to the cream. It shouldn’t set up very hard at all.)
Whip the cream to stiff peaks, add a splash of vanilla if you like, and fold the pumpkin ganache into it gently but bravely until just a few streaks of orange remain. Store in fridge until ready to adorn the cake. It’s best enjoyed the same day it’s made, or if there must be leftovers, wrapped carefully and refridgerated for one more day shouldn’t hurt.
Scatter the cake with cookie crumbs when ready to serve, and serve generously!
And don’t worry, it’s never too late for a good ginger cake, January or not. Personally, I would still enjoy this in the spring, with a lemon curd perhaps, or some fresh flowers scattered on top instead of the cookies. Ginger, as I’m wont to declare, never goes out of style. Not to me, anyway.
Only one more holiday themed post, I swear!