A gingerbread loaf for many a festive occasion! The recipe calls for three forms of ginger: fresh ginger root, ground ginger, and crystallized. And requires less refined sugar than most traditional gingerbread loaves. Entirely versatile, you can swap in gluten-free flour, ditch the sugar for honey, and use any oil or butter you like. The straightforward quick-bread method requires only a bowl and a whisk. And will have your taste buds singing of the winter season.
This homemade gingerbread loaf is a light and airy version of classic gingerbread cookies. And this recipe, like my traditional banana bread, is extremely adaptable for different diets and food allergies. You can whip it up with less sugar. Or substitute any gluten-free flour blend (I've tested it with several of the most widely-available brands). It's naturally dairy-free, but if you prefer to use milk for the liquid you won't be disappointed by the added richness.
You can glaze the loaf after baking or leave it au natural. The real secret to a memorable gingerbread is ample amounts of the star ingredient (to be obvious). So this recipe calls for all three forms: fresh ginger root, ground ginger, and crystallized (candied) ginger chips.
Fresh ginger root combined with classic gingerbread spices gives this loaf all those wonderful flavors of the season. Crystallized ginger adds a little sweet surprise to every other bite and makes for a beautiful garnish on top of the loaf. Apple cider or pure apple juice keeps the bread naturally dairy-free. But any common juice or milk you have on hand works in the recipe.
- Fresh ginger root. The raw form of ginger can be found in the produce section of your grocery store. I like to peel the whole root and keep it in the freezer which makes it really easy to grate with a microplane or box grater.
- Crystallized (candied) ginger. If you can't find crystallized ginger in any form at your local grocer, many specialty stores sell it. Chop larger chunks into small bits.
- Ground spices. Ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, and cardamom bring all that glorious, festive flavor. The ginger and cinnamon are the most important members.
- All-purpose or gluten-free flour. Most gluten-free flour blends work great as a direct replacement for all-purpose. I recommend one that contains xanthan gum as it works as a great binder and helps prevent the loaf from sinking during cooling.
- Apple cider. I look for an apple cider that is made with pure apple juice and not from concentrate. But you can use orange juice or any milk, whether cow's milk or plant-based.
- Oil or butter. Oil tends to keep baked goods moist longer than butter. But melted butter offers its richness and works just as well in the recipe. Use either or half and half.
How to Make Gingerbread Spice Mix
Ground ginger is of course the main spice in any gingerbread loaf or cookie recipe. But I find many recipes discount the importance of the supporting actors. Subtler spices like cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg get lost if not given a fighting chance. Ginger is downright pungent and on its own lacks nuance. But it truly shines in the presence of friends.
Mixing up your own gingerbread spice mix is a fun way to add festive flavor to your meals throughout the winter season. Simply combine all the spices in a bowl and whisk well.
- 4 teaspoons ground ginger
- 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom (not traditional, but a delicious addition)
For this recipe, add two teaspoons in with the dry ingredients. Sprinkle leftover gingerbread spice mix on your morning oatmeal, add it to pancake batter, or mix a little into your coffee grinds before brewing for a special cuppa joe.
The method for any quick bread like this gingerbread loaf is the wet-dry mixing technique. Four simple steps and then straight into the oven.
- Mix the dry ingredients.
- Whisk the wet ingredients.
- Mix the wet ingredients into the dry.
It's a simple, quick, and fun baking project to do with kids. Just don't let little ones go too crazy with the mixing. Once the batter is incorporated but still contains a few lumps, stop mixing to prevent a tough loaf.
Because if you're baking with all-purpose wheat flour the gluten proteins in the flour will bind to each and then multiply like rabbits. And the more you mix, the stronger their bonds get. You do need a bit of this gluten bonding to give the loaf structure and stability. But too much and you'll be chewing on a nicely-spiced rock cake.
Unlike recipes with wheat flour, gluten-free batters need to be mixed well. No gluten, so no problem. And I find resting gluten-free batters for around 30 minutes before baking helps the loaf bake up light, fluffy, and prevents sinking.
This is because gluten-free flours lack those proteins that form structure-building gluten chains when mixed with liquid. But allowing the starches time to absorb moisture and gel together creates a sturdier bake.
- Prepare. Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease an 8" or 9" loaf pan, or your pan of choice. I often bake this into a gingerbread village with a specialty pan. Peel the skin off a small branch of fresh ginger with the edge of a spoon. Grate about two tablespoons using a microplane or on the small holes of a box grater.
- Sift or whisk the dry ingredients. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (or sift them onto parchment for easy cleanup).
- Whisk the wet ingredients. In a medium bowl, combine the grated ginger with the remaining wet ingredients and whisk well.
- Add the wet to the dry ingredients. If using all-purpose flour, pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix just until the batter comes together. For gluten-free, whisk vigorously until the batter is smooth.
- Transfer to the pan. Pour the batter into your chosen pan and smooth the top with a spatula or spoon. Sprinkle with small pieces of the crystallized (candied) ginger and press them in gently. If baking gluten-free, let the batter rest for 30 minutes before baking.
- Bake. Bake an 8" or 9" loaf for 40 minutes, but begin checking the loaf after 35 minutes. The gingerbread is done when the top of the loaf springs back when gently pressed with a finger. A gluten-free loaf is done when a toothpick comes out with dry crumbs. Cover the top of the pan loosely with foil if it begins to brown before it's done baking.
- Cool and serve. Cool the gingerbread in the pan for 10 to 20 minutes, then turn it out onto a plate. Whisk together apple cider or milk and powdered sugar to make a glaze, if you like. Always drizzle on the glaze after the loaf is cool.
- Store covered. Store the gingerbread in an airtight container or a covered plate at room temperature. To freeze it, wrap it tightly with plastic or seal it in a food storage bag.
- Top the gingerbread with an eye-catching glaze. Whisk apple cider, milk, or orange juice little by little into a cup of sifted powdered sugar until you get a thick but pourable icing. Add extracts or ground spices like cinnamon to your liking. Always pour any glaze onto a cooled loaf. And you can sprinkle more candied ginger on top after drizzling for a pretty garnish.
- Bake the loaf just enough. The rule of thumb I learned in culinary school and through experience is cakes and quick bread are done when the top springs back when lightly touched. If you prefer to use the toothpick method, don't wait until it comes out clean to take your gingerbread out of the oven. By then it's too late. Baked goods experience carry-over cooking in the same way meats do. So they continue baking after being removed from the oven thanks to heat retained by the pan.
- On ditching the refined sugar. While the recipe calls for only a small amount of brown sugar, it's still refined sugar. If you don't want any processed sweetener, replace the sugar with half of a cup of honey or a third of a cup of maple syrup. Coconut sugar is also a great, slightly less processed substitute.
I like to warm my slice and spread it with a little butter. Or take it to the next level with cinnamon-spiced compound butter. Warming the gingerbread releases its amazing aromas and softens it slightly. And you really can't argue with all those wonderful smells of the season.
- 10 ounces or 2 cups of all-purpose or gluten-free flour
- 2 teaspoons of baking powder
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons of ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon of ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon of ground allspice
- ½ teaspoon of ground nutmeg
- 3 large eggs
- ¾ cup of apple cider or milk
- 2 tablespoons of blackstrap molasses
- 2 ounces or 4 tablespoons of avocado oil (or your favorite cooking oil)
- 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons of freshly grated ginger root
- ¼ cup of brown sugar (any kind), or granulated sugar, honey, or maple syrup (see Notes)
- 2 - 4 tablespoons of crystallized ginger, chopped small, optional
Vanilla-Apple Cider Glaze
- 1 cup of confectioner's sugar, sifted or whisked to remove lumps
- 1 to 2 tablespoons of spiced apple cider (or even orange juice or milk)
- Pinch of salt (⅛ of a teaspoon)
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Before you begin gather and measure out all of your ingredients. Then preheat the oven and grease your pan of choice.
- Prep your ingredients. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease an 8-inch or 9-inch loaf pan. Peel the skin off a couple of inches of the fresh ginger root with the edge of a spoon. Then grate about two tablespoons worth using a microplane or on the small holes of a box grater.
- Mix the wet and dry ingredients separately. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients except for the crystallized ginger.
- Combine the wet and the dry until just smooth. Mix the wet and dry ingredients in one of the bowls. If baking with all-purpose flour only mix the batter until it's just combined. If baking gluten-free gingerbread, whisk well until the batter is smooth.
- Spread into the pan and bake. Pour the batter into the loaf pan and smooth the top with your spatula or a spoon. Or portion the batter into a cupcake pan, filling each one about halfway. Sprinkle the small pieces of crystallized ginger on top and press them in a little. If baking gluten-free, let the batter rest in the pan for 30 minutes before baking.
- Bake and cool. Bake the loaf for about 40 minutes (muffins for 14 to 20 minutes) just until the top springs back when gently pressed. Or for gluten-free when an inserted toothpick comes out with dry crumbs. Cover the pan loosely with foil if it begins to brown before it's done baking. Cool the loaf in the pan, then turn it out onto a plate.
- Storage. Store the gingerbread loaf covered tightly at room temperature, or seal it airtight to freeze.
For the Glaze
- Sift the confectioner's sugar into a mixing bowl.
- Add one to two tablespoons of spiced apple cider, orange juice, or milk, and whisk until the glaze is smooth. Whisk in vanilla extract and any spices, if using. Adjust the consistency as needed to create a thick but pourable glaze.
- Drizzle the glaze over the cooled gingerbread loaf (I like to set the loaf on a cooling rack with parchment underneath for easy cleanup). Sprinkle more crystalized ginger pieces on top, if you like.
On the Sugar
While the recipe calls for only a small amount of brown sugar, it's still refined sugar. For a sweeter loaf, use up to ¾ cup of any sugar. If you don't want any processed sweetener, replace the sugar with half of a cup of honey or a third of a cup of maple syrup. Coconut sugar is also a great, slightly less processed substitute.
On Different Baking Pans
Any quick bread batter can be baked successfully in a variety of pans. And this gingerbread is no exception. I often bake the batter in a gingerbread house village pan around the holidays. Depending on the volume of the pan you use, you may end up with a bit of extra batter that you can bake into a few muffins. Adjust the baking time for the pan(s) you choose. For muffins, begin checking for doneness after 14 minutes. If you bake the gingerbread in 6", 8", or 9" cake pans, fill them halfway with batter and begin checking for doneness after 18 minutes.
- Bake the loaf just enough. The rule of thumb I learned in culinary school and experience is cakes and quick bread are done when the top springs back when lightly touched. If you prefer to use the toothpick method, don't wait until it comes out clean to take your gingerbread out of the oven. By then it's too late. Baked goods experience carry-over cooking in the same way meats do. So they continue baking after being removed from the oven thanks to heat retained by the pan.
- On the liquid. I created this recipe to be naturally dairy-free by using apple cider as the liquid. But it's just as delicious and contains a bit less sugar when made with milk or plant-based milk. Use what you have on hand and what you like.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Category: Desserts
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: Mediterranean
- Diet: Gluten Free
- Serving Size: 1-inch slice of gingerbread
- Calories: 136
- Sugar: 11.8 g
- Sodium: 168 mg
- Fat: 7.9 g
- Saturated Fat: 1.3 g
- Carbohydrates: 14.8 g
- Fiber: 0.5 g
- Protein: 2.2 g
- Cholesterol: 62 mg
Keywords: gingerbread, gingerbread loaf, gluten free gingerbread, dairy free gingerbread
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