This tender gluten free gingerbread loaf has the richness of molasses and just the right balance of warm spices. The outside of the loaf has the most delicate, delicious crust, and the inside is pure holiday warmth. Celebrate the season!
What is gingerbread?
Gingerbread is a category of baked goods that are made with warm spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves, and sweetened with molasses and honey. I stick with a combination of cinnamon and ginger, since not everyone likes nutmeg and cloves, but you could also add a touch of nutmeg and/or cloves if you and all your eaters like them.
The origin story and association with the holiday season is kind of a chicken-and-egg question for me. One whiff of that gingerbread smell and I've got visions of sugar plums…
Gingerbread can be made moist, tender and cake-like, like this gluten free gingerbread loaf, our gingerbread cake, or gingerbread muffins. Gingerbread is also a really lovely flavor for all different kinds of cookies of the season, like our gingerbread men cookies. Clearly, I have a thing for gingerbread. It's just so festive!
Baking with molasses
Whenever I use molasses in baking, readers ask if they can use something else in its place, like honey. The answer is often “yes, but….” The recipe just won't be the same without molasses, which adds flavor, aroma, and color.
To give you some perspective, it helps to start with the difference between granulated sugar and brown sugar. Brown sugar is simply granulated sugar that has had molasses added to it (less for “light” brown sugar, more for “dark”). Molasses adds a touch of moisture to brown sugar, but more importantly a depth of flavor that you can't get from granulated sugar alone.
I bake with unsulphured molasses, which is considered to be the finest quality of molasses, produced after the “first boil” of ripened sugar cane. It's not expensive, regardless of how “fine” it supposedly is, and the brand I use is Grandma's. It's really worth buying a jar, which will last a long time since a little molasses goes a long way.
Ingredients and substitutions
Dairy: There are two types of dairy in this recipe, buttermilk and butter. In place of butter, I recommend Melt brand vegan butter, or butter-flavored Spectrum non hydrogenated vegetable shortening. You should also be able to use half (42 g) Earth Balance buttery sticks and half (42 g) unflavored Spectrum non hydrogenated vegetable shortening.
Since the butter is melted, you may be able to replace it with a neutral oil, but I don't recommend it. Baking the batter for close to an hour with that much oil would probably cause the bread to have an unpleasant oily smell.
In place of buttermilk, you can use half non-dairy milk and half plain non-dairy yogurt. You can also use that same formula using dairy-containing ingredients if you can have dairy, but are just out of buttermilk.
Eggs: There are 3 whole eggs in this recipe, which is past my limit of 2 eggs for recommending use of an egg replacer. If you did try to make this recipe egg-free, you can try 1 “chia egg” (1 tablespoon ground white chia seeds + 1 tablespoon lukewarm water, mixed and allowed to gel) for each egg in the recipe.
Corn: In place of cornstarch, try using arrowroot or potato starch.
Molasses: Please see the discussion above about baking with molasses.
Gluten Free Gingerbread Loaf
1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) buttermilk, at room temperature
6 tablespoons (84 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 eggs (150 g, weighed out of shell) at room temperature, beaten
4 tablespoons (84 g) unsulphured molasses
3 tablespoons (63 g) honey
2 cups (280 g) all purpose gluten free flour (I used Better Batter)
1 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)
1/4 cup (36 g) cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease and line a standard 9-inch x 5-inch loaf pan with unbleached parchment paper and set it aside.
In a small bowl or medium-sized measuring cup, place the buttermilk, butter, eggs, molasses, and honey, and whisk to combine well. Set the wet ingredients aside. In a large bowl, place the flour, xanthan gum, cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and granulated sugar, and whisk to combine well. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and mix until just combined. The batter will be thick but soft.
Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan and spread into an even layer with a moistened spatula. Place the pan into the center of the preheated oven and bake for 35 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F and continue to bake until the loaf springs back when pressed lightly in the center and a toothpick inserted comes out with a few moist crumbs attached (another 15 to 20 minutes). Do not overbake. Allow the bread to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Slice thickly and serve.