By Anne DesBrisay
This time of year suits me. The garden’s been put to bed, the motley tomato crop’s been transformed into sauce, the outdoor markets are dwindling down to a few brave and mittened souls selling off the last of the apples, squash, and kale — and yet the madness of the Christmas season is not yet upon us. And as I’ve always been a big believer in waiting for the sun to set before the cork comes out of the bottle, well, late fall feels like a good friend.
Nothing quite says “November” to me more than when chefs and bakeries start dusting off the bottle of molasses. And then rooting around for all those ancient aromatics — cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, allspice — to add gingerbread to their menus. There’s an inherit zing to gingerbread, and a sweetness that’s there, but subtle. I love it in warm puddings, cakes, and cookies or, when used judiciously, paired with foie gras, say.
Four of our city’s crackerjack eateries are cozying up our autumn with their delicious takes on gingerbread:
On the late fall tasting menu at Beckta, executive chef Mike Moffatt cracks open a bottle of Mill Street’s Coffee Porter and bakes a molasses gingerbread Stout cake for dessert. This he tops with a candied ginger gelato and serves with kumquats poached in verjus. The cheery orange fruit arrives on puddles of bay-leaf-infused crème anglaise, scattered with a pumpkin seed brittle. At my last visit to Murray Street, dessert was a Kichesippi gingerbread cake with a Steam Whistle frosting, served with chocolate ice cream and beer nuts. Dynamite.
And then there’s Art-is-in Bakery, which is now rolling out its marvellous gingerbread molasses cookies, topped with candied orange. I think these beauts are available at other times of the year, but really, they taste best right now.
At my last visit to the just turned three-year-old Auntie Loo’s Treats I worked my way quite happily through her vegan gingerbread cupcake with lemon icing (after working my way through the construction on Bronson Avenue).
I’m adding Auntie Loo’s, together with the very fine Jak’s Kitchen just to Loo’s north, to my growing list of tasty construction finds, worthy places enduring months of roadwork with style and grace. And some with gingerbread for comfort.