Gingerbread and chocolate pie

On the second day of the new decade, I awoke to -5 degrees, brilliant sunshine, and blindingly white snow. It’s so very Wisconsin this week — you look out the window and everything’s beautiful until you attempt to go outside, when the tip of your nose freezes within seconds because of the windchill.  Perhaps “freezes” is a slight exaggeration but if you were outside long enough without proper clothing, frostbite might be a risk. Last winter, during one of our short frigid periods, there were actually at least two deaths from exposure that I read about. No one I knew. There is no bad weather; only bad gear and bad planning.

I pulled up all the shades to flood the rooms on the main level with welcome sunshine; the heating had already kicked in and I launched on a frenzy of baking and later, cooking some new recipes. This is the end of my two weeks of time off, and I was in the mood for a couple more days of cooking. Our two twenty-something kids are still here and they enjoy home-cooking since they don’t get it much at school. Right now, the days are still short, so when the morning presents sunshine reflecting off a yard full of snow, I’m energized to do something active indoors. Today, that meant active in the kitchen, which is really just part of the entire main level, open to other activities happening around me. The kitchen is the center of our household!

One of the things I made today was a recipe for gingerbread that I found in my recipe box where it’s been hiding for decades. I don’t think I’ve ever made it. The other day, I was looking for another recipe, so ended up sorting all my recipes in all their various forms, and stumbled on this ancient card with typed instructions that I recognized immediately as having come from my mother-in-law. She was raised on a farm in North Florida, and this particular recipe was beloved by all the extended family.  I’m not really sure how I acquired this copy.  The instructions call for “baking in a medium oven” which may be a reference to an old wood stove, but I figured 350 might be accurate and it was. Some of the ingredients seem unusual — 1 cup of cane syrup [“not molasses – altho’ this may be used if necessary”]. Cane syrup is difficult if not impossible to find in Madison, but we had some from a previous trip to Florida, but not quite enough, so I added a bit of molasses to finish off the bottle, and topped off the cup with dark corn syrup. The recipe also requires “1 cup hot grapefruit juice — orange may be substituted.” Since we had orange but not grapefruit, that’s what I used. The result is a gingerbread cake, not flat cookies. Before eating it, you make a hot lemon sauce [sugar, corn starch, “butter or oleo”, lemon rind, lemon juice, boiling water] and pour it over the gingerbread cake. Just perfect on a very cold winter day.

Another of my experiments today was chocolate pie.  Our daughter had requested it, and I’ve never made chocolate pie, so I began searching my sources for something that I might be able to make without too much trouble. The result was a resounding success, and so much more tasty than jello pudding mix! The recipe I used came from The Joy of Cooking’s 75th anniversary edition. I used a basic pie crust, cooked prior to pouring in the chocolate filling, which had also been cooked on the stove top. I used whole milk and 5 egg yolks, so this version is definitely not a low-cal creation. So what. It’s still the holidays.

I actually did venture outside today to drop something off at my next door neighbor’s house. Should have had sunglasses on! Only one more day at home, and then I’ll be back to my usual work routine.

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