Brown butter brings nutty flavor to aromatic, spiced gingerbread

Fall demands that leaves leave. Acquiescing, they fall.

After which, they lie in wait. For what remains unclear. Mine looked perfectly happy lazing around in heaps that faded from red and orange to brown and brittle.

I liked the crinkle underboot, the flurry that followed the dog, the nutty scent of the season settling. It put me in mind of nut-brown gingerbread, spiced with cinnamon, cloves and pepper.

Eventually I gave in, locating rake, tarp and Saturday. Friday I slid to sleep on good intentions and awoke to a deep drift of snow. Relieved of rake duty, I was relieved to read that leaving the leaves can be good. They serve as comforter and snack to the dozing plants.

Good things happen inside too — like lazing around, sinking gingerbread deep into a drift of whipped cream.



Prep: 20 minutes

Bake: 50 minutes

Makes: One 9-inch square gingerbread

About 1 tablespoon softened butter, for greasing pan

2 1/2 cups flour

5 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Pinch of ground cloves or black pepper? Up to you

3/4 cup molasses

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut up

1 cup whole milk

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups sugar

Whipped cream, optional, but very good

1. Prep: Generously butter a 9-by-9-by-2 (or 3) inch square baking pan. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Whisk: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, ginger, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, baking soda and optional cloves and/or pepper.

3. Brown: Measure molasses into a quart-sized heatproof measuring cup. Heat butter in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Let sputter until nut-scented and the bottom of the pan is flecked with brown bits. Start checking at 5 minutes, but it may take as long as 14 minutes to brown. Whisk brown butter (and all those nice brown bits) into molasses. Whisk in milk.

4. Whip: Using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip eggs until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Still whipping, cascade in sugar. Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl. Whipping on medium speed, drizzle in brown butter mixture. Scatter on flour mixture. Mix just until combined. Scrapes sides and bottom again and mix in any recalcitrant streaks.

5. Bake: Pour into prepared pan. Bake until springy in the center and cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan, 50-52 minutes.

6. Serve: Nice warm, with whipped cream.

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