Gingerbread No. 1

I love cookbooks, and recently found an interesting one at a local estate sale. It’s falling apart, and missing both covers, but is interesting to me because it is from St. Charles, Illinois, where I live. No date is given, but judging from its illustrations, it looks to be from the early 1920’s. It may have been a community cookbook because it contains advertisements. The Stewart State Bank advertised that it had $100,000 in capital, and we are advised to go to “Fred A. Poole for FRUITS.”

Out of curiosity, I decided to make something, and chose a recipe called “Gingerbread No. 1.” Bringing a recipe to life from such an old cookbook is fascinating, but perilous. Pan sizes are not given, nor is there an oven temperature. But I ventured forth. Using an 8″ pan, and baking at 325 degrees, yielded a promising-looking gingerbread that slowly craterized as it cooled. Oops. The crumbs were delicious, though, so I tried again. This time, a 9″ pan and 350 degree oven temperature did the trick, yielding a moist and mildly spiced gingerbread. Gingerbread No. 1, hidden in this old cookbook, was on a table in St. Charles again, ninety years later. I gave it my own touch by pouring a glaze of powdered sugar and fresh lemon juice over the still-warm gingerbread, and it was delish. It’s perfect for a Sunday supper, with leftovers for lunches during the week. Next on my agenda: Gingerbread No. 2, an even more perilous baking adventure because no instructions are given at all.

Note: The second time I baked this gingerbread, I upped the ginger to one teaspoon to add zing. Otherwise, I am giving the recipe as it stands, because it works. Mixing the baking soda with hot water is an old way of adding leavening to the batter.

Gingerbread No. 1

1/2 cup molasses

1 cup sugar

2-1/2 cups flour

1 cup hot water

1 egg

5 tablespoons melted butter

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ginger (see note above)

1 teaspoon (baking) soda

1 teaspoon salt

Put molasses in a bowl. Add sugar, butter and spice. Put soda in cup, add water, stir into first mixture. Add flour and well beaten egg. Beat hard. Bake 30 minutes in a well greased pan (9″ square at 350 degrees). Watch closely as gingerbread burns easily.

To make a glaze, mix one cup of powdered sugar with the juice of one lemon. Add one to two teaspoons of water to thin to a pourable consistency, and pour over the gingerbread, spreading it with a knife. It will harden as it cools.

6 thoughts on “Gingerbread No. 1

  1. Fran,
    I love the cookbook with the twine(?) binding. I have a very old cookbook handed down to me from my husband’s grandmother. It too is stained, faling apart and I believe from around the 1920s.
    I have recently embarked on a “Clean Eating” campaign, which in my version means nothing processed, everything must be made from the most basic ingredients I can obtain and as much organic, farm fresh and/or pasture fed products as possible. If we want dessert, we have to make it from scratch (you would be surprised how little dessert you REALLY want if you have to make it). About 2 months ago, I was leafing through this old cookbook. There was a recipe for ginger vanilla floats. This recipe included homemade ginger soda with fresh made vanilla ice cream. So, we made it! I had never made ginger soda (or any soda for that matter). It was much more intense than what we have always known as ginger ale. This drink was more similar to Ginger beer (think root beer, no alcohol), which is widely available in New Zealand, with a strong ginger bite. I could have just been happy drinking the soda, but we also made the vanilla ice cream and then assembled the floats. Wow! What a great flavor combination! Your Gingerbread No.1 reminded me of my family sitting at the table, laughing, joking and drinking floats on that sunny day earlier this summer. Perhaps I will create another memory by making your Gingerbread No.1 and using it as a bookend for the other side of the summer season! Thanks for this delicious looking recipe!

      1. Oh okay, you got me, I do use an electric ice cream maker! Ha ha! I guess I could shave some lbs. by hand cranking, but then it may never get done!
        I had an old hand crank ice cream maker about 20 years ago. I think I used it once. I had bought it because I remembered, as a kid, my aunt from Rochester coming to visit and bringing her hand crank ice cream maker. She also brought a recipe for chocolate ice cream. Oh we had such a great time, all the kids taking turns at the end of the driveway, cranking away to make her chocolate ice cream recipe! In my mind, it was the creamiest, smoothiest most delicious ice cream I had ever in my 10 year old life had!
        It all seemed so easy back then, but of course, there were 6 of us kids. As an adult, the hand crank turned out to have lost it’s charm. I cranked and cranked and cranked that thing and still it was just soft serve (at best). I decided right then and there – electric was the way to go when we were talking ice cream makers!

      2. Sue, the only reason I don’t have an electric ice cream maker is that I would be using it constantly, and eating ice cream constantly. Sounds like a dream machine!

  2. I want to live at your house! How about I will do the cleaning and you do the cooking? But then come to think of it–you won’t be able to continue with your household cleaning tips–

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