Lock the doors and hide the credit cards; it’s the scariest shopping day of the year! While more discount-savvy commercial hunters may relish the opportunity to forage and gather, scooping up the best sales around, I tremble in fear of the mere concept of waking up at 4 am in order to buy holiday gifts. Even for big ticket items reduced by hundreds of dollars, the pain and suffering simply can’t be worth the written price tag. Big price cuts bring big crowds, and I can’t help but flash back to the image of hapless gawkers being trampled half to death as soon as store doors crack open an inch. No, I’d be much happier safely holed up in the kitchen, cranking up the oven and making my own holiday gifts, as per usual.
Dark as coal but a much sweeter gift to recieve, it seemed only fitting to make a black dessert for the occasion. Contrary to how it looks, however, it’s not a brownie, and doesn’t even taste a bit chocolaty. Though a generous scoop of black cocoa is employed to intensify that charcoal color, it doesn’t contribute significant flavor. Instead, this bar is all spice, all the time. Complex and delicately nuanced, this is a gingerbread built for the discerning palate looking for something just a bit different from the same old spice blend. Rounded out by rich molasses, these bars are fantastically dense and chewy, like the best blondies should be. Though I hesitate to call them blondies based on their appearance, that’s how they started life; A few tweaks that lead to bigger alterations, built upon a recipe in my Blondies and Brownies ebook.
Seeking out a slightly fancier presentation, you may have noticed that these bars were in fact cut as rounds. Fun, unique, and eye-catching, I do love the shape, but it creates quite a bit of blondie “waste” in the process. Not to worry, nothing is truly wasted here- Especially if those scraps are used to make…
Caramel-cinnamon ice cream with black gingerbread chunks? Not such a bad consolation prize for the baker, I’d say!
Being only the day after Thanksgiving, it may seem like I’m jumping the gun on holiday gifts here, but this season it’s non-stop holiday madness for me; Hannukah is less than a week away, already! Even if you’re planning ahead for Christmas, the good news is that once baked and sliced, these bars keep beautifully in the freezer for up to 3 months, wrapped in plastic and stored in an air-tight container. So bake your heart out, and leave your wallet at home! Black Friday can be a much tastier affair.
Black Gingerbread Bars
2 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Black Cocoa Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Instant Coffee Powder
1 Tablespoon Finely Grated Fresh Ginger
1 Tablespoon Ground Ginger
2 Teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon Cloves
1/2 Teaspoon Nutmeg
1/4 Teaspoon Paprika
Pinch Ground Black Pepper
1 1/2 Cups Chopped Walnuts
1/3 Cup Brown Rice Syrup
1/3 Cup Molasses
1 Cup Zulka Sugar
1/2 Cup Canola Oil
1/2 Cup Apple Butter
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
1/2 Cup Finely Chopped Crystalized Ginger
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, coffee powder, and spices so that all the dry goods are well mixed. Add in the chopped chopped walnuts, and toss to coat with flour, so that the pieces don’t simply sink to the bottom of your bars.
Separately, mix together the rice syrup, molasses, brown sugar, oil, apple butter, and vanilla. Pour these wet ingredients into the bowl of dry, and stir just enough to bring everything together. A few errant lumps are just fine; Be sure not to over-mix. The resulting batter will be extremely thick and sticky, to the point of being difficult to mix- Don’t panic! Just make sure you get out any pockets of dry ingredients before proceeding.
Transfer the batter into your prepared pan, and use lightly moistened hands to press it down into one even layer until it reaches all of the corners and sides. Sprinkle the chopped crystalized ginger over the top, and press gently into the unbaked bars with your fingertips.
Bake for 28 – 35 minutes, or until no longer shiny on top, firm around the edges, and highly aromatic. Let cool completely before slicing either into squares, or cutting into rounds with a cookie cutter.
Caramel-Cinnamon Ice Cream with Black Gingerbread Chunks
1 Cup Coconut Milk
2 Cups Vanilla Soy or Coconut Creamer
1 Cup Vegan Caramel Sauce
1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
2 Tablespoons Corn Starch
2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1 Heaping Cup Bite-Sized Black Gingerbread Cubes
This ice cream is really easy as can be; Combine the coconut milk and creamer in a medium sauce pan, along with the caramel, cinnamon, salt, and corn starch. Whisk vigorously to combine and beat out any lumps. Turn on the heat to medium, and whisk occasionally until it just comes up to a boil and has thickened significantly. Cool completely and add the vanilla. Chill thoroughly before churning in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions, adding in the gingerbread chunks in the last 5 minutes of churning. Transfer to an air-tight container, and freeze solidly for at least 4 hours before serving.