Noah's Ark Preschool-New Lebanon,

Trying to re-create a gingerbread memory

Published: Wednesday, February 24, 2010 @ 10:01 AM
Updated: Friday, November 16, 2012 @ 10:40 AM

On a sunny, breezy day last spring, I was out for a lengthy hike on the tiny island of Sark. For about four hours I had been exploring the glorious scenery of this part of the Channel Islands, which sit in the English Channel between England and France.

But my feet were ready for a rest, and I was getting hungry. I had had a substantial breakfast at my bed-and-breakfast on Guernsey, less than an hour away by ferry, so I just wanted something light.

Along the main gravel road, I stopped for refreshments at Sue’s Tea Garden, a large expanse of deep green lawn, with tables scattered around a well-manicured collection of trees, plants and flowers.

I sat on a bench at a rectangular wooden table, studied the menu and then requested a piece of ginger cake, a cheese and herb scone and a pot of Earl Grey tea. The scone came with a little pad of butter in the shape of a mouse, complete with long, thin tail. The teapot was snug in its cozy, and the ginger cake rested alone on a plate with a sprinkling of powdered sugar.

Although I enjoyed everything, the memory of the ginger cake has stayed with me. It was moist without being soggy, the spices were mild but distinctive, and I particularly liked the small pieces of ginger throughout.

While I paid my bill, I chatted with the owner, Sue Guille, who makes everything on the menu, about her garden. I fleetingly thought to ask for the recipes but left without having done so.

I’ve been thinking about the ginger cake ever since. Shortly after I got home, I wrote a card to Guille, requesting the recipes. I never heard back. I don’t know whether she didn’t get my correspondence, didn’t want to share, or she answered and her response went astray.

So I have spent the past several months looking at my cookbooks, searching the Web and trying recipes that might duplicate what I remember.

First I tried a spice cake from Emeril Lagasse that I found on the Web. It was somewhat dry, the texture was too stiff, and it was way too light in color. Probably not enough molasses.

Then I turned to my reliable “Silver Palate Cookbook” by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins (Workman Publishing, $9.95). The gingerbread did not disappoint and I’ve made it several times since, but it was not a perfect match.

Late last year, “Gingerbread: Timeless Recipes for Cakes, Cookies, Desserts, Ice Cream and Candy” by Jennifer Lindner McGlinn arrived at the AJC. (The paper often gets new cookbooks from publishers.) “Hmmm,” I thought. “Perhaps I’ll find what I’m looking for in here.”

The gingerbread I baked had pleasantly pronounced spices (including allspice and cloves) and a lovely, deep aroma, but it was too dark in color and had a dense crumb. It, too, wasn’t just right.

Recently I tried a recipe off the Web from King Arthur Flour. It calls for a cup of buttermilk, an ingredient missing from the other recipes. I don’t know whether that’s what made the difference, but to my mind, this one came the closest.

I’ve thought about sending Guille another note, but even without her input, any of these three will do just fine when I want a flavorful cake that reminds me of a cool May day on a windswept island.



Most recipes say to serve gingerbread warm, but I think that room temperature is just fine. Tightly wrapped, gingerbread will stay fresh for several days ... if it’s around that long.

I like to vary the shape, so sometimes I make muffins instead of a cake. All can be topped with confectioners’ sugar, whipped cream or anything else you’d like. But I don’t think they need any adornment.

You can find small pieces of crystallized ginger at Harry’s Farmers Market or Whole Foods. I like the Reed’s brand that comes in a 1-pound resealable pouch.

Betty Gordon,


King Arthur Flour’s Gingerbread

Hands on: 20 minutes Total time: 55 minutes Serves: 12 to 16

This was the winner, the closest to what I could remember of the taste of the ginger cake I had on Sark. Instead of a square cake, try baking the batter as 12 large muffins.

You can use 3 tablespoons of fresh grated ginger instead of crystallized ginger. Add the ginger to the molasses before adding to the flour mixture.

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

11/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or margarine, melted

3/4 cup molasses

1/4 cup water

1 large egg

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup crystallized ginger, diced (optional)

Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Grease and flour a 9-inch square baking dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.

Melt the butter or margarine in the microwave in a heatproof measuring cup. Add the molasses to the butter. Pour into the dry ingredients, mixing to moisten.

Add the water, stirring until everything is moistened. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and buttermilk. Stir into the batter until it’s evenly combined. Stir in the crystallized ginger.

Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the cake just begins to pull away from the edge of the pan. (Make sure the center is baked; it should not wiggle.) Or insert a toothpick in the center and when it comes out clean, the cake is done. Be careful not to overbake.

Remove from the oven and cool on a rack for 15 minutes before slicing.

Adapted from a recipe from Per serving (based on 12): 254 calories (percent of calories from fat, 30), 3 grams protein, 42 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 9 grams fat (5 grams saturated), 39 milligrams cholesterol, 234 milligrams sodium.



Hands on: 15 minutes Total time: 55 minutes Serves: 12

This gingerbread comes together quickly if you’re looking for a last-minute dessert. Don’t worry if the batter seems too thick after you’ve added the molasses. The hot water will thin it and make it easier to mix.

12/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

11/4 teaspoons baking soda

11/2 teaspoons ground ginger

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup molasses

1/2 cup boiling water

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup crystallized ginger, diced (optional)

Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-inch square baking pan.

Sift flour, baking soda, ground ginger, cinnamon and salt into a mixing bowl. Add the egg, sugar and molasses. Mix well.

Pour boiling water and oil over the mixture. Add the crystallized ginger. Stir thoroughly until smooth.

Pour batter into the prepared pan. Set on the middle rack and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the top springs back when touched and the edges have pulled away slightly from the sides of the pan.

Adapted from “The Silver Palate Cookbook” by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins (Workman Publishing, $9.95)

Per serving: 243 calories (percent of calories from fat, 35), 2 grams protein, 37 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 10 grams fat (1 gram saturated), 18 milligrams cholesterol, 280 milligrams sodium.


Eliza Leslie’s Lafayette Gingerbread

Hands on: 25 minutes Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes Serves: 12 to 16

Cookbook author Jennifer Lindner McGlinn says a version of this cake dates to 1828 and was included in Eliza Leslie’s “Seventy-Five Recipes for Pastry, Cakes and Sweetmeats.” It is possibly named for the Marquis de Lafayette, McGlinn says.

I made this in a well-greased and floured, fluted bundt pan; McGlinn calls for a springform pan. Sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar, it’s elegant enough for a dinner party.

21/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon ground ginger

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or margarine, at room temperature

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 cup molasses

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 cup hot water

1/2 cup crystallized ginger, diced (optional)

Juice and grated zest of 1 lemon

Confectioners’ sugar

Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-by-3-inch springform pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, ground ginger, cinnamon, allspice and cloves.

Place the butter or margarine in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium-high speed until smooth. (A good-quality hand mixer works fine, too.) Add the brown sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Pour in molasses and beat until smooth.

Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well, stopping at least once to scrape the sides of the bowl. In a small bowl, dissolve the baking soda in the hot water.

Reduce the mixing speed to medium-low and alternately incorporate the flour mixture and the baking soda mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Stop once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the crystallized ginger, lemon juice and zest and beat until just incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 45 minutes or until the cake is a dark chestnut brown color, the top is cracked and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Set the gingerbread on a wire rack to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before turning out to cool for about 30 minutes more.

Serve warm or at room temperature. Dust with confectioners’ sugar, if desired.

Adapted from “Gingerbread: Timeless Recipes for Cakes, Cookies, Desserts, Ice Cream, and Candy” by Jennifer Lindner McGlinn (Chronicle Books, $19.95)

Per serving (based on 12): 311 calories (percent of calories from fat, 25), 4 grams protein, 55 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 9 grams fat (5 grams saturated), 56 milligrams cholesterol, 331 milligrams sodium.

Top Halloween food safety tips

Published: Saturday, October 14, 2017 @ 8:47 AM

How A Teal Pumpkin Can Save A Child’s Life

From bobbing for apples at a party to devouring a bucket of candy, food is definitely a big part of enjoying Halloween. But it can also lead to problems such as food-related illnesses, allergic reactions or even incidents such as choking.

>> Read more trending news

The following top Halloween food safety tips from the FDA  and the CDC will help keep your guests and little ghosts and goblins safe.

Prevent an allergic reaction
If your child has a food allergy, the following can let them enjoy their Halloween haul while avoiding any problematic foods:

Look for teal pumpkins
Families who display teal pumpkins offer non-candy treats for trick-or-treaters who may have allergies.

Check all treats
Make sure your child knows not to eat any candy before you check it at home. Look for ingredient lists on pre-packaged candy, and throw out any homemade treats since you can’t positively identify their ingredients.

Buy treats for your child
Buy some small trinkets (check out the non-candy suggestions listed below) to give your children on Halloween. That way, if they end up not being able to eat much of their candy, they won’t feel left out. 

Exchange or donate what your child can’t eat
Find a local Halloween Candy Buy Back event in your area where kids can exchange candy for cash or prizes. You can also donate candy to active duty service members or other organizations. 

Check for signs of tampering
Although tampering with candy is rare, it does happen. The CDC recommends consuming only factory-sealed food items. Look for any evidence of the following:

  • An unusual appearance
  • Discoloration
  • Tiny pinholes
  • Tears in wrappers

Throw out homemade treats unless they’re from someone you know very well. If something looks suspicious, throw it out, and if you find actual evidence of tampering, notify the police.

Eliminate choking hazards
Some Halloween treats can be choking hazards, especially for small children. Look through their bags to eliminate the following:

  • Peanuts
  • Hard candies
  • Gum
  • Raisins
  • Gooey candy like caramel, taffy or marshmallows
  • Small toys such as balls or marbles
In addition, make sure kids don’t lie down when they’re eating their Halloween candy, since this can increase their risk of choking.

Make sure treats you serve at home are safe
Candy from outside your home isn’t the only possible treat-related danger. If you’re hosting a Halloween party or planning other holiday activities for your family, take the following precautions:

Clean fruit
If you’re bobbing for apples, rinse them thoroughly and use a produce brush.

Avoid raw dough
Don’t eat raw cookie dough or cake batter, which can contain bacteria.

Refrigerate properly
Don’t leave food out on the table or counter for too long. Keep items refrigerated until they’re ready to serve, and don’t leave perishable foods out for more than two hours.

Offer non-food alternatives
You don’t have to limit yourself to handing out candy. Kids enjoy small toys or other treats, and you won’t have to worry about allergies or stuffing them with too much candy. Dollar stores are great places to pick up multiple items packaged together, such as the following:
  • Glow sticks
  • Plastic rings with spiders, skulls, etc.
  • Small bubble bottles
  • Stickers
  • Mini notepads
  • Bouncy balls
  • Pencils
  • Erasers
  • Vampire teeth
  • Temporary tattoos
  • Stencils
  • Silly bands
  • Small playing cards
  • Small cans of Play-Doh
  • Finger puppets

Trick-or-treating: Top safety tips

Published: Friday, October 13, 2017 @ 6:35 PM

No Tricks, Just Treats: How to Have a Safe Halloween

Halloween should be about treats, but some tricks such as dangerous situations can quickly ruin the fun. The following trick-or-treating safety tips can help you and your kids avoid issues.

Costumes and other components can create hazards if you’re not careful. The following tips from the Centers for Disease Control and the National Safety Council will help you make sure your child’s disguise doesn’t cause any hazards:

  • Look for light-colored, flame-resistant costumes
    Look for masks, wigs, costumes and other components that are labeled as flame-resistant or made of flame-resistant fabrics such as polyester or nylon. Also choose light-colored costumes when possible since they’re easier for drivers to spot at night.
  • Look for a proper fit
    Make sure all masks, shoes and other parts of your child’s costume fit well. He or she should be able to see well and walk without tripping over a costume that drags the ground or because of shoes that are too large. 
  • Take care with makeup
    Buy only nontoxic Halloween makeup, and always test it in a small area first, the CDC recommends. Remove it before bedtime to help prevent irritation.
  • Use safe accessories
    Use swords, knives and other accessories made of soft materials that won’t cause injury if your child falls on them.
  • Make your child more visible.
    The CDC suggests adding reflective tape to your child’s costume and treat bag to make him or her more visible.
  • Protect their eyes
    Skip wearing decorative contact lenses to avoid injuring your eyes, and don’t let your kids wear them.


Drive carefully and keep your kids safe as they navigate neighborhood streets with the following tips:

  • Slow down and be cautious
    If you’re driving on Halloween, slow down in residential neighborhoods and watch out for trick-or-treaters who may unexpectedly dart into the street. Especially if they’re wearing dark costumes, they can be difficult to see. 
  • Be visible
    Turn your headlights on, even if it’s still light outside, so you’ll be more visible to trick-or-treaters.
  • Arm trick-or-treaters with flashlight
    Make sure your trick-or-treaters carry a flashlight with fresh batteries, but teach them to carry it facing downward so they don’t temporarily blind oncoming drivers.
  • Stick to sidewalks
    Walk on sidewalks when possible, and if they’re not available, walk on the left side of the road so you’re facing traffic.
  • Cross the street safely
    Cross streets only at the corner, and never cross between parked vehicles.
  • Make sure kids are supervised
    If you’re not accompanying your kids, ensure that they’re going with another adult or an older, responsible young person if they’re under 12. 

    Make sure you child’s candy doesn’t cause any harm with the following tips:
  • Inspect your child’s candy
    Tell your kids to wait until you can look through their candy at home before they eat any. Tampering is rare, but it does happen. Look for any tears in wrappers, tiny pinholes, or anything that looks discolored or unusual. Throw out anything that isn’t commercially wrapped, unless it’s a homemade treat from someone you personally know well.
  • Check for allergens
    If your child has a food allergy, read the ingredient label of commercially wrapped treats to make sure it doesn’t contain any allergens. Skip homemade treats, since you can’t be sure of what they contain.
  • Look for teal pumpkins
    If you see a teal pumpkin at a home, that signifies that it’s safe for trick-or-treaters with food allergies since the homeowners offer non-food treats like small toys. Look for homes that display these if your child has allergies, and provide this welcoming sign of safe treats for kids who visit your home.
  • Check for choking hazards
    Check through non-candy treats to make sure they’re not a choking hazard to your child if he or she is younger. Also go through their candy and eliminate any hard candies or any other items they could choke on.
Choose the safest locations for your child to visit with the following tips:
  • Visit ‘trunk or treat’ events
    Organizations such as churches often hold trunk or treat events where people decorate their opened trucks and hand out candy. This helps children stay in a confined area and avoid streets and traffic.
  • Hit the mall
    Malls sometimes have Halloween events where stores give out candy to children in costume. You’ll avoid traffic and other outdoor hazards while ensuring that weather won’t be a factor.
  • Check with neighborhood associations
    If you live in a community with a neighborhood association, these organizations often have information about which houses are handing out candy. The association may also host a clubhouse party for the holiday.
  • Use Nextdoor’s treat map
    The social network site for neighborhoods has a Halloween treat map that lets you and your neighbors “advertise” that you’ll be handing out Halloween candy. You can use it to plan the best route for your trick-or-treaters.
  • Know which houses to avoid
    Several states prohibit registered sex offenders from handing out candy on Halloween, and at least one, Maryland, requires them to post “No candy at this residence” signs. You can also check the U.S. Department of Justice’s website for links to your state’s sex offender registry or download a mobile app that you can use along the way to tell you which homes to avoid.

Best 2017 pop culture Halloween costumes

Published: Friday, October 13, 2017 @ 5:35 PM

The Spooky History of Halloween

Halloween is the perfect time to make a statement about this year’s pop culture hits and misses. According to Insider, some of the most popular pop culture Halloween costumes in 2017 will include pregnant Kylie Jenner, Wonder Woman and a Playboy Bunny.

According to Quartz, what this says about us, besides that we like to dress up, is that our collective psyche is riddled with TV and movies. But Quartz also pointed out the common human desire to be more powerful, which is why superheroes are a Halloween fashion staple.

Other pop culture favorites appearing this Halloween season include any costume that has Disney characters. In September, Pinterest noted that just the term “Disney costume” has been pinned more than 675,000 times this year, with Belle and Gaston from “Beauty and the Beast” leading the pack.

A costume that became cliché in its first season is Pennywise, the kid-killing clown from the screen adaptation of Stephen King’s “It.” Pinterest saves for clown makeup and costumes are up 941 percent this year. If you must join the horde, please, please, step away from red balloons near sewers in suburban neighborhoods. Other pop culture Halloween costume popular on Pinterest included “Baywatch” characters, frat boys and Wednesday Addams. One of the most popular Halloween makeup options is pixelated face makeup, which has been pinned more than 26,000 times. 

>> Read more trending news

Hit pop culture Halloween costumes from the media
Ripped-straight-from-the-headlines costumes make their own kind of scary Halloween statements, even if those headlines come straight from TMZ or People.

Fake News: Insider reports a mini dress of newspaper clippings stamped “Fake” in big red letters sold by costume retailer Yandy.
Pregnant Kylie Jenner: You may not be unique, but you’ll be in good company in one of Yandy’s $60 pregnant Kylie Jenner costume.
Hef and a Playboy bunny: 2017 claimed the life of  Hugh Hefner. Sure, dressing as the dapper (if elderly) Hef and a Playboy bunny is a time-honored Halloween tradition, but this year’s news adds a morbid touch to the Playmate (Yandy, $80) and Hugh Hefner (Target, $40) couples costume.
Dancing hot dog from Snapchat: The wildly popular dancing meme from Snapchat makes a hot pop culture Halloween costume. You can pick up a  $40 hot dog suit from Target, but you must supply the over-the-ear headphones yourself.
Handmaid: Hulu’s 2017 hit, based on the Margaret Atwood novel, "The Handmaid's Tale," is a dark metaphor for the current civil rights and political climate. A handmaid ensemble is easy to pull off for one or a group, from thrift store finds or ready-made purchases like the $64 version from Azure Costumes.
La La Land: Another great couples’ idea from the Pinterest people, and if you can jitterbug and whatnot, all the better. For the snarkiest, include a “Moonlight” costume in the group as a nod to the 2017 Best Picture Oscars mix-up.
April the Giraffe and her baby from Animal Adventure Park: With giraffe costumes and make-up running wild on Pinterest (up 1,200 percent from last year, unless someone made a typo), what a great time to dress as the ever-pregnant and finally a mom April the Giraffe. Depending on your companions and physical condition, you may want to go for pregnant April, during her eternal labor, or with her offspring.
Kinder, gentler pop culture costumes
Groot: According to Pinterest, searches for this soulful, leafy “Guardians of the Galaxy” character’s costume have gone up 133 percent in the past year. It’s a more involved costume than most, with those branches and all, but it has the prime advantage of also having a baby costume option: Baby Groot from “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.”

Bob Ross and Tree: That’s a happy tree, mind you, a perfect foil to 2017’s political and environmental strife. And hey, Pinterest reports 25,000-plus saves on the costume idea.
Unicorns: Rainbows and sparkles will be in the forecast for Halloween 2017 trick-or-treating and costume parties for sure, with searches for unicorn costumes up 110 percent this year on Pinterest. According to Quartz, “The draw seems to be childlike positivity and magical thinking, allowing people see themselves and the world through rose- (and cobalt-) colored glasses.”
“My Little Pony”: With the 2017 release of the “My Little Pony” movie, the  animated characters should give you plenty of sweet costume options for every optimist on the block. Just be sure your costume has a pony name and a birthday on Equestria.

Most popular Halloween costumes for 2017

Published: Friday, October 13, 2017 @ 11:36 AM

No Tricks, Just Treats: How to Have a Safe Halloween

The National Retail Federation predicts that 179 million Americans will partake in Halloween festivities in 2017 and that 48 percent plan to dress up. That’s a lot of costumes! Those trying to stand out for a party or costume contest and those who want to fit in with the rest of the trick-or-treat crowd can both benefit from these predictions for the top costume picks for Halloween 2017 from the NRF and Pinterest.

>> Read more trending news 

Most popular children’s Halloween costumes for 2017
The little ones will be dressing up as heroes this Halloween, with more than 3.7 children planning to dress as action characters or superheroes, according to the NRF. That figure doesn’t even include the Caped Crusader. Batman on his own will provide costume inspiration for 2.9 million child Halloween costumes, tied for second with a generic princess in the NRF rankings. Wonder Woman also makes a solo appearance on the list. 
The entire NRF Top 10 list of the most popular Halloween costumes for kids:
1. Action/superhero 
2. Batman character tied with Princess
3. Animal (cat, dog, monkey)
4. Spider-Man
5. Star Wars character
6. Witch
7. Marvel Superhero (excluding Spider-Man) tied with Pirate
8. Ghost
9. Disney Princess
10. Wonder Woman
Most popular adult Halloween costumes for 2017
In September, Pinterest and fashion search platform Lyst released predictions for the top Halloween costumes of 2017. The list included a frightening trend: costume ideas spawned by the kid-killing clown Pennywise in the screen adaptation of Stephen King’s “It.” Searches for clown makeup have increased by 941 per cent on Pinterest this year, and Lyst also reported a rise in searches for shirts with expansive ruffled shoulders and pom-pom shoes like the odious clown wears.
It may sound like a stretch but … giraffes are another go-to costume for Halloween this year. Pinterest data indicated pins for giraffe costumes ideas and makeup tutorials are up 1,200 percent compared to 2016, and Lyst data also indicated a 27 percent increase in searches for giraffe fashions since this past June. You can thank April the giraffe, and her long pregnancy that was one of the top viral stories of 2017.

The TV set and other streaming devices also helped make certain costumes popular. This is the second season for “Stranger Things” character costumes to be making the trick-or-treat and party rounds, with 40 percent more Pinterest saves year over year. These costumes have the added allure of being simple to make and wear, especially the trucker hats and ‘80s T-shirts Pinterest and Lyst are predicting.
“Game of Thrones” characters were up 91 percent on Pinterest and Jon Snow all by his lonesome had 280 percent increased costume saves on Pinterest. Quartz has a helpful hint for anyone wanting to jump in on this costume trend. Those gnarly Night’s Watch capes are repurposed IKEA rugs.
Just in from the 2017 widescreen, Pinterest users currently have more than 230,000 Wonder Woman costume ideas saved while pins of Beauty and the Beast characters have jumped 680 percent, including some sweet group costumes for Gaston and the milkmaids.

Here are some other top choices on Pinterest for Halloween 2017:

Top group costumes
Daenerys and Jon Snow from “Game of Thrones”
“Baywatch” cast members 
“Stranger Things” cast members 
Top family costumes
“Beauty and the Beast”
“Jurassic Park” 
Mother of Dragons (Daenerys) 
Top solo costumes
Wonder Woman 
Girl Scout