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baking prep


I am terrible about making gift lists. Birthday lists, Christmas lists, any-occasion-where-I-get-a-gift lists... you name it. Well, with the exception of the wedding registry. That I thoroughly enjoyed. Plus, I wanted to be sure there were enough things on there that no one would be tempted to go off-script. Because as we can all imagine, that almost never ends well. But for most any other occasion, I am the worst person in the world to ask for a gift list. I'm not sure why I've developed such a dislike for them, but there it is. My sisters always ask me for a list around Christmas or birthday and I always have the same reaction. "But if I give you a list, then you'll buy something off the list!" And where's the fun in that? I want to be given the thing that you want to give me. Or I suppose I could re-situate the emphasis as... I want to be given the thing that you want to give me. And a list destroys that option because the giver is then just choosing off a predetermined menu and isn't really thinking about what is meaningful for them.

Sorry, that was a total rabbit hole. The point there - and I swear there's a point - is that Aaron convinced me to make a Christmas list this year. Go figure, right? I spend a paragraph ranting about how I'm terrible at lists and then tell you the point of the story is... that I made a list.

Whatever. I made a list this year and in the process, I discovered at random The Thing That I Wanted.

It's beautiful.

It's Tradition in a Tin. It's baking magic. It's what I will use for one of the twelve days of Christmas every year.

It's a bright red Nordicware village.*

And Aaron bought it for me.

Guys, it's so beautiful. I don't know what it is about this pan, but I love it so much. There was a plain metal one too, but for some reason it had to be the red version. There's just something so perfectly joyful about it with its intricate houses and chimneys and footpath and brilliant red glaze.

We've already started designating the buildings. The one on the back left has the largest hearth, so of course that one's the pub. The one with the round side nooks can be a church - we'll call those the chapels. And the little cottage on the right clearly belongs to a wooly Miss Marple type. Sharp as a tack, but with the coziest parlor.

So the pan lives in my kitchen now and of course I tried it out as soon as we got home from celebrating with my family. I'd known all along exactly what I wanted to bake in it: the soft, dark, perfect gingerbread from my childhood. Mom would make it for us as a treat - we thought it was cake and would always eat it warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The most infamous story from this one was when she made it for my sister's grade school birthday party. Her classmates immediately assumed it was chocolate cake and, well, when you're a grade school child and you expect chocolate, no gingerbread is really going to take the cake. (Forgive the pun.)

But regardless, this gingerbread has always been a favorite of ours, its non-chocolateness notwithstanding. I definitely recommend using blackstrap molasses when you make it. I'm a bit of a hypocrite myself since I used up the standard molasses in my cabinet for this round (in my defense, it was the leaking bottle and something really had to be done about it), which is why the gingerbread is a bit lighter. With the blackstrap, it's a beautiful rich, dark hue and has an extra depth of flavor.

And with that, bring on the ice cream and let's do this thing!

*this is not a sponsored post - just a very happy gift recipient



yield: 1 9"x13" pan


3 cups whole wheat flour 1 tsp ginger 1 TB cinnamon 1 tsp cloves ½ tsp salt 1 tsp soda 1 cup oil 3 eggs 1 cup buttermilk 1 cup blackstrap molasses


  1. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined.

  2. If you have a gingerbread mold, prepare it according to the manufacturer's instructions and fill about ¾ full with the dough. An ice cream scoop is perfect for dispensing into small molds.

  3. If you do not have a mold, grease a 9"x13" baking pan and pour all of the batter into it.

  4. Bake at 350º for 20-30 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

  5. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

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Pick varieties and flavors that bring you joy. Not everyone is a baker and not everyone likes to cook. 


Enjoy the process. One of my favorite things while baking is to knead the dough and feel how it changes in my hands. I love chopping vegetables that came fresh from the farmer's market, brushing the dirt off the leaves, and creating with something that came from the earth.


Listen to jazz. I know this is a personal preference, but there are few things that give me quite the feeling of contentment as cooking a good meal with a glass of wine and a Thelonius record on in the background.

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