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Help me decipher my gingerbread disaster!

LindaMc Oct 30, 2006 05:54 PM

I'm a frequent baker and, with one exception involving merengue and a "thin stream of caramelized sugar," I've rarely experienced a true disaster despite my tendency to play around with recipes. But over the weekend I decided to whip up a batch of tried and true gingerbread (I posted a paraphrase of the recipe, from the excellent Sweet Stuff by Karen Barker, on this board last year)since I had some fresh ginger from the farmers' market.

I've made this many times, and I used the same pan as always. Same oven. I don't even mess with this recipe the way I usually do. But this time the failure was spectacular--it rose WAY too much, overflowed the sides of the pan, dripped all over the oven, then collapsed in an unsightly brown heap. I was to bring this as dessert to a friend's dinner party; I had to stop at a Whole Foods on the way over instead as all of the decent bakeries were closed and I was disgracefully low or out of necessary raw materials to do another take. So embarrassing! I won't even get into what happened after my husband decided to run the self-cleaning cycle on the oven without waiting for me to scrape off the coating of gingerbread batter...

The only mistake I think I made was in reversing the additions of the last two ingredients--orange juice and a mixture of warm coffee and 2 t baking soda. I got distracted and added the OJ first, then the fizzy coffee mixture. Could the extra acidity of the batter when I added the baking soda have caused the extreme rising and subsequent collapse? Any insight from food science experts/home eccies would be gratefully received.

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  1. danna RE: LindaMc Oct 30, 2006 06:13 PM

    Is it possible you accidentally used self rising flour instead of AP?

    I did that this summer, and although I saved part of the cake with some serious sawing, spliting, filling, and icing - it had a weird texture and a weirder, mettallic taste. Did you taste yours?

    1 Reply
    1. re: danna
      LindaMc RE: danna Oct 30, 2006 06:17 PM

      No, I don't have any self-rising flour. But come to think of it, I did run out of AP flour and had to use a smidge of bread flour (about 1/4-1/3 C out of a total of 2 1/2 C. Could this have made a difference, I wonder?

      It actually tasted good despite its unseemly appearance, but it's very spicy so any subtle changes might have been hard to notice.

      It's amazing what a bit of sawing, splitting, filling, etc can do for a cake! I thought about trying to salvage this one but it appeared completely defeated.

    2. Non Cognomina RE: LindaMc Oct 30, 2006 07:12 PM

      Is it possible you added two TBSP of soda instead of two tsp?

      2 Replies
      1. re: Non Cognomina
        Smokey RE: Non Cognomina Oct 30, 2006 07:17 PM

        That's what I was thinking...

        1. re: Smokey
          LindaMc RE: Smokey Oct 30, 2006 07:33 PM

          Nothing is impossible but I am 99.999 percent certain I did not do this in this instance (because I have done this sort of thing before and was being especially mindful). The coffee-soda mix looked the same as ever, and nothing untoward happened when I blended it all together. Until it was in the oven...

      2. Candy RE: LindaMc Oct 30, 2006 07:57 PM

        You over mixed it and beat too much air into the batter. Generally you do that just once and then learn. That is why it over flowed the pan. I did that once, just not paying real good attention with my tried and true chocolate pound cake, one of which I just put in the oven.

        1. n
          Nyleve RE: LindaMc Oct 30, 2006 08:53 PM

          I have had a similar gingerbread disaster. I think it's possible that sometimes the acidity balance gets screwy and stuff like this happens. OR - and here's where we get into complicated science - it could possibly have been weather-realated. I have found that during some unusual air pressure periods (too low, too high, whatever) baking goes crazy. Was it a nice, normal sunny day or was there something funny going on?

          1 Reply
          1. re: Nyleve
            LindaMc RE: Nyleve Oct 30, 2006 08:59 PM

            Very interesting. I think I could have overbeaten, since I was not monitoring the KitchenAid as closely as I might have, and the recipe calls for the whisk attachment rather than the paddle which seems as if it would exacerbate this danger.

            And it WAS a weird weather day--rainy and warm in the morning, while I was baking it became sunny, dry, and cold.

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