I have a mullet. I’m not sure how this happened and it wasn’t intentional, but I’m currently sporting a mullet. Right, right, it is a barely-mullet that is really more of a grown-out short haircut, but isn’t that how they all begin? They start small, then they grow.
My next haircut isn’t scheduled for a few days, but I wanted to host dinner for friends badly enough that I braved the mullet. Distraction through food became my main tactic. I plied our guests with romesco sauce on bread, leek and fennel chowder with smoked salmon, wedge salads, cheesy bread, and chocolate swirl gingerbread.
This menu was unprecedented for me because of its very precedentedness (go with it). I believe it was the first time I’ve only served dishes I’d previously made and approved. I get it–I understand that predictability can reduce stress and lessen the possibility of disasters, but it just isn’t my style. I like to combine a favorite or two with a couple of daring experiments. For this dinner, I included some ringers because I needed the food to distract from the mullet, but as soon as my hair is cut, I’ll be serving up new and untested dishes to our guests.
Chocolate swirl gingerbread might be one of my repeater dishes this year, though. It truly is a trustworthy, lovable dessert. It is dead easy but looks fancy because of the swirls, it definitely is a dessert but isn’t overly sweet, and it can be served after a lovely dinner or alongside a cup of tea in the afternoon (or the next morning for breakfast if you know what’s good for you).
I love the spicy, dense, fragrant gingerbread, but I love it more because of the small hit of bonus chocolate.
Chocolate Swirl Gingerbread (barely adapted from the only issue of Everyday Food I ever got: March/April 2003)
Yield: 12 respectable servings or 9 really good servings
1/2 cup unsalted butter plus extra for the pan
1-1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (you can use all-purpose, but I like the white whole wheat quite a bit here)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
generous 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup molasses
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 to 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I use more like 4 oz, but less is ok too)
Preheat the oven to 325°. Butter an 8″ or 9″ square baking dish.
In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, brown sugar, ginger, cloves, salt, black pepper, and baking powder. Melt the butter with the water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir the butter mixture into the dry ingredients just until completely incorporated. Stir in the molasses and egg until smooth.
Pour half the batter into the prepared baking dish, coating the bottom of the pan evenly. Drizzle about 2/3 of the chocolate fairly evenly across the batter in the dish. Pour the rest of the batter over the top. Drizzle the remaining chocolate in horizontal lines over the top of the batter. Using a small knife, drag vertical lines through the chocolate, about 3/4″ apart, to create a scalloped design.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the top is set and a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Let the gingerbread cool in the baking dish on a wire rack. Either serve directly from the dish, or gingerly (heh heh) slide a flat spatula under the cake to help you lift it and transfer it to a serving dish.