Things Mother Used to Make: Gingerbread

2014-10-13 10.42.50WON’T you always remember the time, when as a child you came home from school as hungry as a bear and opened the old stone crock to find a chunk of toothsome gingerbread; or will you ever forget the delightful fragrance of the spicy, soft gingerbread that Mother had for supper on chilly nights? To make these old time favorites requires but little time and labor and many pleasing variations of more modern invention may be evolved from them.” ~American Cookery, 1921, volume 25

Keeper, keeper, keeper, keeper.  Wow and cowabunga I loved this.  I loved how easy it was, the paucity of ingredients, the coolness of foaming molasses, the texture of the finished product, and the way my son chowed it down so long as he had a tall glass of milk to go with it.  It does need a glass of milk on the side.  Having this gingerbread without milk is worse than having Simon without Garfunkel and we’ve been there, haven’t we?  It’s like Peter, Paul and No Mary.  It shouldn’t be tried. It’s chocolate chip cookies without the chocolate chips.  It’s just wrong is what I’m saying.

Gingerbread was once a staple treat from American kitchens, and that’s not the case any more.  I am not sure why.

Lincoln and gingerbread

So here we go- the original receipt is from the 1914 cookbook Things Mother Used to Make A Collection of Old Time Recipes, Some Nearly One Hundred Years Old and Never Published Before

Here’s the recipe as it appears in the cookbook:

=Soft Gingerbread=

1 Cupful of Molasses 1 Cupful of Sour Milk 1/2 Cupful of Butter or Lard 1 Teaspoonful of Ginger 1 Teaspoonful of Soda 1/2 Teaspoonful of Salt

Stir the soda into the molasses until it foams, add sour milk, ginger, salt and melted butter. Last of all, add flour enough for quite a stiff batter, and bake. This makes one sheet.

 and that is pretty much what I did, except I made two pans,  one square and one round, I baked them for 20 minutes then rotated and baked another 15.

This is the molasses I used. It’s kind of mild in flavor. I usually use a different brand that I buy at the store where the FYG works. It’s richer and darker (and comes in a larger jar), but I used my last jar up and this is what I can get at the grocery store. 2014-10-13 09.42.19


I stirred the melted butter and soda into the molasses at the same time, because I was being a ditz. It’s not that big of a deal, but I did need to stir a few extra times to get the baking soda well mixed.

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The mixture gets light, airy, lightly foamy.

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The volume increases in the bowl since the baking soda molasses reaction incorporates air into the mix.  So you need a slightly bigger bowl than you think you do.

2014-10-13 09.44.57

This is the ginger I used. It’s not my usual brand- I asked somebody else to pick up bottled minced ginger at the store, and this is what came home. It has sugar added, and it’s not gingery enough. I prefer a larger bottle I buy from the Korean grocery store. Because this is so mild, I used two teaspoons. You could also use powdered ginger, and I would definitely only use 1 teaspoon in that case.

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When it was time to add the flour, I used freshly ground whole wheat pastry flour and I used 2 1/2 cups.  However, freshly ground flour is light- there’s more air in the mix, so this is probably closer to 1 3/4 to 2 cups of flour.  What I suggest you do is have 2 1/2 cups ready, but stir it in half a cup at a time.  I stopped stirring when the batter was just slightly thicker than my batter for drop biscuits is.  Thick enough to roll is too thick.  When you lift a spoonful of dough it should stick to the spoon a bit.

I greased two pans very well.  You could also try the mixture my friend Donna left in the comments here:

“…mix together equal parts oil, shortening and flour. This keeps in the fridge forever and you use a pastry brush to spread it on tins or pans. It is super great on bumpy pans, like a bundt pan or kid’s character cake pan, but I have used it on nasty muffin batter before and it does the trick”

So grease your pans and bake at 350 (when in doubt, always bake at 350) for 20 minutes.  Then check.

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The round pan was a bit of an error- the edges were done but the center wasn’t.  This is also a little tricky to check (like brownies).  The knife or cake checker will come out clean before it’s actually done.

So how do you tell?  The center should not be quite so shiny on top. The color will dull a little bit as it’s baked.  Press the back of a spoon gently against the top center.  It should have about as much give as a sponge- if it has more, it’s probably still too doughy in the center.

So I put them back in the oven (rotating them to make sure the baked evenly) and baked for another fifteen minutes:

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That’s more like it.

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I had to taste test them, didn’t I?

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I thought they were delicious.  The Boy was ambivalent until he found out we had real milk in the fridge (I’ve been buying almond milk while our raw milk source is unavailable, and he objects).  He really liked them with milk.  I sent one pan home with the Equuschick, and there’s only one row left in the square pan we kept and I made these 24 hours ago.  And I only had one.

Come, Buy my Spice-Gingerbread, Smoking Hot! Hot! Hot!

Come, boys and girls, men and maids, widows and wives,
The best penny laid out you e’er spent in your lives;
Here’s my whirl-a-gig lottery, a penny a spell,
No blanks, but all prizes, and that’s pretty well.
Don’t stand humming and ha-aring, with ifs and with buts,
Try your luck for my round and sound gingerbread-nuts;
And there’s my glorious spice-gingerbread, too,
Hot enough e’en to thaw the heart of a Jew.

Hot spice-gingerbread, hot! hot! all hot!
Come, buy my spice-gingerbread, smoking hot!

I’m a gingerbread-merchant, but what of that, then?
All the world, take my word, deal in gingerbread ware;
Your fine beaus and your belles and your rattlepate rakes—
One half are game-nuts, the rest gingerbread cakes;
Then in gingerbread coaches we’ve gingerbread lords,
And gingerbread soldiers with gingerbread swords.
And what are you patriots, ’tis easy to tell—
By their constantly crying they’ve something to sell.
And what harm is there in selling—hem!

Hot spice-gingerbread, &c.

My gingerbread-lottery is just like the world,
For its index of chances for ever is twirled;
But some difference between’em exist, without doubt,
The world’s lottery has blanks, while mine’s wholly without,
There’s no matter how often you shuffle and cut,
If but once in ten games you can get a game-nut.
So I laugh at the world, like an impudent elf,
And just like my betters, take care of myself, and my—

Hot spice-gingerbread, &c.

From the book A History of the Cries of London Ancient and Modern

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