Well, I’ve saved the best for last. This will be my last post before Christmas, and the piece de resistance of my Christmas recipes? Squash and rye gingerbread.
Gingerbread is glorious and has traditionally been associated with Christmas in one form or another in many cultures, particularly in Europe and Scandinavia. Some historians think it might be the earliest form of Christmas cake.
So this year I decided to endeavor to make gingerbread for Christmas day rather than fruit cake. I wanted my cake to be moist and beautifully spiced, and I figured that this is the kind of cake that would lend its self perfectly to the incorporation of one of my favourite flours, rye.
I also wanted to make my gingerbread without processed sugar, and so took to the internet to see how others had done it. My initial impulse was to use maple syrup, as I thought that it would give the cake a hint of lovely maple flavour. But then I came across this beautiful website ifoodreal.com. I was completely absorbed by the writer Olena’s gorgeous site. It’s filled with delicious and clean recipes, and she’s a fellow British Columbian too! Very exciting. Her gingerbread recipe suggested the use of dates to sweeten it, that had never even occurred to me! So after swapping the applesauce for squash and adding some rye flour into the mix, I ended up with this cake. I wrapped it up for a couple of days to let the flavours mature a bit, and then tried it. It’s heavenly. A gorgeous Christmas-y gingerbread free from refined sugar, and filled with whole grain goodness, mineral rich molasses, and squash! If you make this today it will be perfectly matured for Christmas day!
So on that gingery note, I wish you all the very happiest Christmas. I hope your day is filled with joy, the people that you love, and some glorious food!
- 1 large butternut squash, split in half and deseeded
- 1/2 tsp ground allspice
- 60ml milk
- 50g dates, chopped
- 2 lrg eggs
- 65g molasses
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 50ml + 2 tsp honey or maple syrup
- 150g whole rye flour
- 300g whole spelt flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 3 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1 Tbsp of honey dissolved in 1 Tbsp of hot water, for glazing (optional)
- Score the flesh of the squash deeply and drizzle over the 2 tsp of honey or maple syrup, and then sprinkle with the allspice. Rub the mixture across the flesh of the squash so that it’s evenly covered. Place the prepared squash, cut side up, in a roasting tin and place it in the preheated oven. Leave it to roast until it’s very soft, about 45minutes.
- Allow the squash to cool and then scoop the flesh from the skin. Place it in a blender, or mash it by hand until you have a smooth puree. Measure out 300g of the puree to use in the recipe and if you have any left over store it in an airtight container in the fridge to use in smoothies or mash it in with potatoes or yams.
- Meanwhile, place the dates and the milk into a small pot. Over medium heat, bring the mixture nearly to a boil. Remove from heat and set aside to soak while the squash is cooking. Once its soaked and soft, blend the date and milk mixture until it’s quite smooth.
- Grease a 21cm square, loose bottomed tin (or a tin with a similar capacity; two 2Lb loaf tins would work well) and line the bottom with non-stick baking parchment. Lower the temperature of the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
- In a large bowl, mix together the measured out squash, date and milk puree, eggs, molasses, vanilla and the remaining 50 ml of honey or maple syrup. Stir well until the mixture is smooth and well combined.
- In a separate large bowl combine the flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and remaining spices. Stir well until evenly combined.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir well until well combined and there’s not dry flour remaining. The batter will be quite stiff, not pourable.
- Scoop the mixture into the prepared tin. Even and smooth it out a bit with a large spoon or a spatula.
- Place the tin into the oven and leave to bake about 40-45 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center comes out nearly clean (it can have a few moist bits clinging to it, but no streaks of soggy batter).
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool 10 minutes in the tin, before removing it from the tin and allowing it to cool on a wire rack. When cool, brush the top with the dissolved honey to glaze.
- Leave the cake, wrapped well in paper and clingfilm, for a couple of days if you can, to allow the flavours to fully develop.