Bah! Yumbug!

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Although mostly lacking in any excessive indulgence in Christmas traditions, there is one I adhere to with enthusiasm.  Ginger cake. 

Christmas without ginger cake would be like a Chinese Buffet without the lime jello, or a parade without the clowns that shovel horse manure, or a junior high band concert without the headache, or the history of cars without the American Motors Gremlin, or a visit to a fortune-teller without hearing about a tall, dark stranger, or a visit to Cache Creek without stopping at Hungry Herbie’s, or a “Top 100 Hits of All Time,” without something by Bobby Curtola.

You can only make it at Christmas.  There are eleven months in which ginger cake is just wrong.  Equally wrong is a stretch of December in which tea or coffee is not accompanied with a generous wedge of ginger cake.

I realize that ginger cake may strike many as an idiosyncratic Christmas tradition.  But give it a try, and there’s a chance you’ll be hooked.  Your Christmas tree will be relegated to a position of secondary importance during seasonal preparations while you follow this recipe:

Christmas Ginger Cake

4 cups of all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1 Tablespoon of ginger powder

2 cups of Thompson Seedless raisins

3 Tablespoons of finely chopped preserved ginger (Dalton’s brand is good)

1 1/2 cups of butter

1 cup molasses

1 1/2 cups white sugar

3 eggs

11” circular coffee cake pan

What to do:

1.  Heat in a saucepan to a boil the butter, molasses and sugar.

2.  Combine dry ingredients in separate bowl.

3.  Add heated stuff to the dry ingredients, then stir in the eggs one at a time, stirring rapidly and making sure each egg is fully mixed in before adding the next one.

4.  Pour into a greased, floured coffee cake pan.  (You may also want to cut out a piece of parchment paper to line the bottom.)

5.  Bake for approximately 1 hour at 325 F.  It’s done when a chopstick comes out clean. 

6.  Let it cool for about half an hour.  Then, run a knife around the edge of the pan to make sure it’s not sticking.  Invert onto a cooling rack.

7.  Indulge.  Feel Christmasy.  Know that you have created the ultimate in Christmas traditions.  Had he ever tasted this ginger cake, even Scrooge would be Unscrooged.

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A Recipe that Knows No Failure

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In some recipes, failure doesn’t stand a chance.  It’s not even within the realm of consideration.  Failure doesn’t even have your house address let alone a key to the front door.

Such is the case with rum balls.  All you have to do is to take chocolate– lots of it– chips and Oreo cookie crumbs.  Mix in some whipping cream and melted butter.  Why not throw in some booze and even some salt? 

The proportions don’t really matter.  All the elements inherently work because each could potentially stand on its own.  It’s the Travelling Wilburys of recipes– you could have each ingredient as a soloist, but throw them together and you have a supergroup that can do no wrong– never hit a sour note.

And don’t be fooled into thinking that the spherical aspect of the rum ball is really all that important.  They could be rum pancakes or rum smoothies and those consuming them could care less.

Some might argue that superior and inferior rum ball recipes exist, but this is not the case.  The only bad thing about a rum ball recipe is that it doesn’t make enough.

But for those who just can’t let go of needing a recipe, for those who still need a compass when they’re standing on Mount Everest, here’s a recipe.  But feel free to change it.  And if you can’t find your measuring spoons or your measuring cups were chewed up by the dog, don’t worry.  Just wing it.  Failure will remain blissfully ignorant of your venture.

Catastrophically Good Rum Balls

(A redundant name if there ever was one.)

Adapted from Rea’s Top Secret Recipe

3/4 cup whipping cream

1/4 cup butter

3 tbsp sugar (if you want, but I skip this)

3 tbsp rum  (make it 4)

1 cup chocolate chips

4 cups chocolate cookie crumbs

Think about adding some salt.

Paper candy cups

Old yogurt containers for storage

Wax paper (for between the layers when placed in yogurt container to store)

1.  Put cream, butter and sugar into a double boiler over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring often.

2.  Remove from heat and stir in chocolate chips.  Keep stirring until they are melted. 

3.  Add rum and crumbs (and maybe salt).  Mix well.

4.  Set in the fridge until firm enough to roll into balls.

5.  Roll into balls whatever size suits you or your glutinous friends.  I wouldn’t recommend anything larger than a cricket ball.  I did tablespoon sized (I finally found my measuring spoons– under the fridge.) 

6.  Place into paper candy cups and put into an empty yogurt container.

7.  The only hard part about the recipe is this:  Put the container in the fridge and let them age for a week to ten days for the rum balls to mature and for the rum flavour to really permeate the whole mix. 

However, if you want to be really scientific, eat one rum ball each day to taste their  progress through step #7.  “A rum ball a day keeps failure away.”