I have fond memories of listening to the rain as a child. I think I was more keenly aware of it because my mother would always remark on the sound of it, and she would tell us about how wonderful it was to sleep under a tin roof when it rained, how much better one could hear the raindrops when they were hitting metal overhead rather than shingles and wood.
When I moved to Norfolk, Virginia, I forged an even closer relationship to rain. I had never lived in a coastal town before, and when you consider that Norfolk is gradually sinking, that the tidal schedule can render city streets completely flooded, and that the city is usually in the direct path of hurricanes and tropical storms traveling up the coast, Norfolk is a city that is intimately related to water.
There are even mermaid statues scattered throughout the city. That’s a town that is aware of its own relationship to the sea.
Which is why the truth I’m about to share with you has resulted in a big, raindrop-shaped hole in my life: I have not seen rain since April, when we encountered rain, sleet, and snow at the Grand Canyon on our drive across the country. That’s seven months without the pitter patter of raindrops, seven months without the brushing whisper of car tires on wet roads, seven months without gray skies, wet window screens, rain boots, and meteorological excuses to stay holed up inside and write.
Perhaps it says something odd about me that I love rain so much, that I am happiest when rain comes regularly, when conditions are uncertain, when it is best to bring an umbrella just in case. When I lived in Virginia, I ruined several pairs of shoes by walking in the rain. When I woke up to rain, I knew it would be a good writing day; I donned my comfiest clothes, made a cup of tea, sat on the couch, and let the rain keep my rhythm as I wrote.
So, I love rain. A lot. As my friend and fellow writer Heather says, rain is the weather of our people.
And I am happy to report that this week, for the first time since April, I saw rain. Glory be, y’all, we’re heading towards “winter” and the rains are coming!
For me, a rainy day is the perfect excuse to drink warm beverages and bake. Since we’re almost officially out of the pumpkin fever dream (and since I’ve already started Christmas shopping DON’TYOUJUDGEME), I wanted something spicy and warm.
Gingerbread is the cross-section of a lot of happy worlds that, like rain, make me feel cozy and content. It’s a brownie, it’s a cake, it’s a bread. It’s soft and fudgy, but it packs a big spicy punch that goes great with hot tea, wine, or anything. (It’s gingerbread. It’s awesome with everything.)
A friend of mine has converted me to the ways of America’s Test Kitchen and their collection of (highly efficient and well-tested) recipes. Their gingerbread is divine, and I have changed nothing about it because it’s lovely as is. (That said, some orange caramel sauce wouldn’t be unwelcome. Or even just some orange zest. Zesssssty.)
So whatever your weather may be, and whatever weather makes your heart happiest, here’s a gingerbread recipe to take you through.
Recipe (minimally) adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup molasses
3/4 cup sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1. Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat a 9-inch square baking dish with non-stick spray. Whisk the flour, spices, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.
2. Beat the molasses, sugar, and melted butter together in a large bowl with an electric mixer on low speed until combined, 1 to 3 minutes. Beat in the egg until incorporated. Beat in the buttermilk until incorporated, scraping down the bowl and beaters as needed. Add the flour mixture, increase the speed to medium, and beat until batter is smooth and thick, 1 to 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl and beaters as needed.
3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with a only few crumbs attached, about 40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking.
4. If you want to remove the gingerbread from the pan, then let cool ten minutes before flipping it out onto a wire rack. Turn cake right side up and let cool completely. If you’re lazy like me and want to just keep it in the dish it baked in, put that on a wire rack and allow to cool to your liking.