Moist, dense, and exploding with robust, complex flavors, this gingerbread loaf carries a piece of the holidays in every slice.
A Brief History of Gingerbread:
Gingerbread’s journey can be first traced back to 992 when an Armenian monk, known as St. Gregory of Nicopolis, would make a spiced honey-ginger rye bread to share with French Christians who would pay him a visit on Sundays. Later on, in the 13th C, German immigrants brought a similar recipe to Sweden where nuns would make use of the ginger’s healing properties to treat indigestion. From there gingerbread’s delicious journey continues on into 15 and 16th C England where it was renown for being medicinal. From there the recipe travelled even further. With the advent of global exploration to the Americas and the boom of sugarcane being refined into much coveted sugar, the byproduct molasses began to be incorporated since it was cheaper and more accessible than honey, leading to the complex and well developed recipe we know today.
Here’s why you’re going to love this recipe:
- It uses wholesome, clean eating ingredients and is and vegetarian friendly.
- It is made using 100% whole wheat flour (but you’ll never be able to tell).
- This loaf makes a great breakfast option or a pick-me-up mid afternoon sweet treat.
- It is quick and easy to make.
- It’s packed with a mix of warming spices that can be adjusted to suit your personal preference.
- It can be made either as a whole loaf or as muffins or even mini muffins.
- It is a great use for pumpkin puree (especially if you have a can leftover from thanksgiving hanging out in the back of your pantry).
- It is produces a wonderfully aromatic, warming spice loaf that is light, moist, delicious and almost cake-like in texture.
- It has just the right amount of sweetness that it doesn’t need a frosting but if you want a little extra touch of sweetness I’ll show you how you can make a simple drizzle for it.
- It freezes beautifully so it can be made well in advance and enjoyed as needed.
Read on for my tips and tricks to making this recipe fail-proof so that your loaf comes out moist and fluffy.
To make this wonderfully spiced quick bread you’ll need the following:
- Large Eggs: These add both rise and fluff as well as moisture to our spiced bread.
- Sugar: I’m using evaporated cane juice sugar but you can also use raw cane sugar that is finely blended so that it dissolves easier – if you don’t it might not fully dissolve and your bread may be gritty.
- Pumpkin Puree: You can use canned or homemade (note that if you use homemade and it’s on the wetter side you may want to add an extra tbsp of flour to compensate)
- Whole Wheat Pastry Flour: This flour is 100% whole wheat (meaning it contains the germ and endosperm) and it is a finely ground soft spring wheat which enables your baked goods to have a lighter texture.
- Molasses: I’m using full flavored unsulphured molasses for an iconic depth of flavor that traditional gingerbread carries. I recommend against using blackstrap molasses for this recipe.
- Extra Light Olive Oil: or any neutral clean eating oil of your choosing.
- Baking Powder: The amount used might seem like a lot but the recipe requires it for the best possible texture and bake. Ensure that your baking powder is fresh.
- Orange Extract: This adds a wonderful citrus undertone that perfectly compliments the flavor and spices of the bread.
- Vanilla Extract: Who doesn’t like vanilla extract in their baked goods? It amplifies and enhances all our other flavors and takes this loaf into the realm of amazing.
Let’s talk spices for a moment:
This recipe calls for a lot of ground spices mixed into a unique blend that is iconic to gingerbread. We’ll be using the following:
- Ground Ginger: The main spice that makes gingerbread what it is (it’s in the name!).
- Ground Cinnamon: Cinnamon and pumpkin pair together beautifully and this warm, earthy spice adds both flavor and depth to the loaf.
- Ground Mustard Powder: This may seem really strange but trust me on this. The sharp, spicy notes of ground mustard powder works perfectly in gingerbread. Ensure you’re using ground mustard the spice, not mustard the condiment.
- Ground Clove: Warm, sweet and very aromatic, this spice pairs well with all other spices and plays nicely with the sweetness of our bread.
- Ground Nutmeg: Much like clove, it adds an intense aroma and flavor that is slightly sweet and nutty and pairs well in combination with all our other spices.
- Salt: I’m using a Himalayan Pink salt but you can also use a sea salt.
- Ground Black Pepper: The earthy, spicy zing of pepper might seem strange but it works.
- Cocoa Powder (not pictured): this is an optional ingredient but the rich, complex bitterness of unsweetened cocoa can be added in to enhance your gingerbread if preferred.
- Pumpkin Puree: You can opt to use unsweetened applesauce if preferred but if you do so I highly recommend you reduce the sugar and the amount of wet ingredients.
- Ground Ginger: If preferred, you can use double the amount of finely grated (pureed) fresh ginger.
- Oil: You can replace the oil with equal amounts of melted butter if preferred.
- Whole Wheat Pastry: You can replace whole wheat pastry flour with equal amounts of white whole wheat flour for the same whole wheat benefits. Note that if you use regular whole wheat flour your loaf may come out a bit denser with a stronger whole wheat flavor.
- Molasses: Though the thick, rich, bitter and sweet flavor of molasses is iconic to gingerbread’s flavor and texture and color, you can also substitute 1:1 raw honey in its place if preferred.
Before we begin let me just say that using an electric whisk for this recipe makes life so much easier. You can also use a spatula or a regular whisk if you prefer, it’s just going to require a bit more elbow grease and a bit more care to ensure you’re not overworking the batter once you add the flour!
Here’s how you make the batter for your quick spiced bread:
The first step is to mix together your eggs and sugar using a whisk until it’s thick and mostly combined. Then we’ll whisk in our pumpkin puree, molasses, spices, and extracts.
Next, we’ll slowly stream in our oil and continue whisking as we do so. (You can also use your electric whisk for this step to make life easier).
Then comes the flour. First we’ll need to sift it before adding it to our gingerbread mixture. Once you add it, stir or whisk it in until just combined. Do not overmix or overwork the batter.
I used my spatula to fold most of the flour in so it wouldn’t make a cloud of flour in my kitchen and then I switched over to my electric whisk to blend it together for just a few seconds. Overworking your batter can result in your loaf rising and then collapsing to give you a dense bottom and possibly a collapsed dome.
Now, here is my first tip and it is one that you cannot omit: Once you’ve incorporated your flour, set the bowl aside and let your batter rest for 20 minutes. This is to give your whole wheat flour the chance to properly hydrate and absorb the liquids so that it can soften and give you a moist, soft and fluffy end product.
While your batter is resting, preheat your oven to 350F and (and here comes tip #2) Set your oven rack to the notch just below the middle placement.
Then, grease or oil your 9×5 bread pan and line it with parchment paper that has an overhang by 1″-2″. The overhang acts as a guide for the rising bread, serves as a “handle” to unmold the baked loaf, and it also minimizes the bread overcooking from touching the metal of the pan.
Once your batter has rested and your oven is preheated, we’re going to use a fine sifter to sift in our baking powder. Now the sifting part isn’t wholly necessary, but it makes incorporating and folding the baking powder into the batter easier which means you have to agitate your batter less.
Why add the baking powder last?
Baking powder is double acting which means that it reacts to both moisture and heat, the reason that tip #3 is to add it last and after the batter has rested is to ensure that we don’t lose any of it’s rising power. If we add it before we rest the batter, the baking powder will react to the moisture and we’ll be losing air bubbles as the batter just sits and rests. When we pour it into the pan we’ll be losing even more of our precious air bubbles. Adding it just before we pour the batter ensures that we get the full power of our rising agent in an undisturbed batter.
Pour your batter into your prepared bread pan…
And pop your pan into the preheated oven.
Bake your loaf for 45-60 minutes and whatever you do, do not open your oven door until at least 45 minutes have passed and your loaf has risen and you can see the crust form and set. If you open your oven before then your loaf will drop and will be dense and gummy.
Once your loaf is baked and passes the toothpick test, remove it from the oven and let it cool in the pan for 30-60 minutes before using the blunt edge of a knife to gently ensure the loaf ends are free of the pan before lifting your loaf out using the parchment. Set your loaf onto a cooling rack to fully cool.
Honestly this loaf is amazing on it’s own but you can fancy it up and add an extra hit of flavor by making a simple icing drizzle by combining: powdered sugar, milk or water, and and extract or spice (I used orange extract) together until a thick and smooth paste is formed. Then, drizzle the icing over your fully cooled loaf and allow it to set for a few minutes. For more control you can pipe it by putting the icing into a piping bag or even a sandwich bag with the tip snipped off.
Simple, easy, and delicious, this loaf is one of my favorites and honestly I think the hardest part of this entire recipe is the time it takes to bake and cool down before you can devour it. Patience really is a virtue. 😅
By the way, did you know that this batter bakes up beautifully as muffins too? Simply divide the batter between 12 muffin molds (fill each about 3/4 full) and bake them for 20-30 min until they pass the toothpick test.
To recap here are my tips for ensuring that this recipe is a success:
- Do not overwork your batter once you add the flour. Use an electric whisk if you have one for easier mixing.
- Set the oven rack on the spot that is just one below the middle setting.
- Let your batter rest for at least 20 min.
- Use fresh baking powder for the best results.
- Only add your baking powder once your batter has rested. If possible sift it in before folding it into your batter.
- Use a pan that is both greased and also has parchment with overhang to make unmolding easier and minimize the potential for sticking.
- Do not open your oven once you place your loaf in to bake until you can see that the bread has risen and the crust has properly formed and set or else you risk your loaf collapsing.
- Cool your loaf first in the pan and then on a cooling rack before cutting it to avoid it from crumbling. The cooler it is, the cleaner it will cut.
Happy baking and happy holidays everyone!! 💕
Spiced Gingerbread Loaf
- 3 large eggs
- ¾ cup evaporated cane juice sugar (or finely blended raw cane sugar)
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- ¼ cup molasses unsulphured
- ½ cup extra light olive oil
- 3 tsp ground ginger
- 1½ tsp cinnamon powder
- 1 tsp ground mustard powder
- ½ tsp ground cloves
- ½ tsp Ground Nutmeg
- ½ tsp Himalayan salt
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp orange extract
- 1⅓ cup stone ground whole wheat pastry flour sifted to break up any clumps
- 2 tsp baking powder sifted
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder (optional)
- Make Batter: In a large bowl whisk together eggs and sugar until thick and fully blended.
- Incorporate your pumpkin puree and molasses into your egg-and-sugar mixture along with your spices (ginger, nutmeg, clove, cinnamon), mustard powder, salt, pepper, cocoa powder (if using) and vanilla and orange extracts.
- While whisking, slowly stream in your extra light olive oil.
- Once your oil is fully blended in, add the sifted whole wheat pastry flour and whisk until fully combined. (See notes*)
- Rest Batter: Let batter your rest for 20 minutes so that the whole wheat flour can fully hydrate.
- Preheat oven and prep pan: While batter is resting, set your oven rack on the 2nd lowest slot and preheat your oven to 350°F. Next, grease a 9x5 bread pan and line with parchment paper that sticks up the sides at least 2" (see note).
- With your batter rested, sift in your baking powder using a fine sifter and fold it into your batter.
- Pour and Bake: Pour your batter into your prepared bread pan, Place your pan onto a baking sheet and bake for 45-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Cool, Ice, Slice: Cool for a minimum of 1 hour before removing from the pan and icing or leaving plain and slicing into 12 slices.
- Store: Store your bread in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week or wrap each slice individually and freeze for up to three months.
- The flour is measured by volume (compact) and then sifted.
- If you don't let your batter rest, your loaf will be dense and may possibly sink in the middle while baking since the flour will be heavy from not being sufficiently hydrated.
- The parchment paper extending past the edge of the tin is a great guide to encourage your bread to rise upwards and serves as a great "handle" to lift your loaf out to unmold it from the pan.
- For a great variation you can add in 1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips to your batter or 1/2 cup of dried cranberries.