Crystallized ginger (Recipe: kicked-up gingerbread)
Updated October 2010.
What's in a name?
Something called candied ginger wouldn't make it into The Perfect Pantry -- after all, do we really need candy? -- but give it a more serious-sounding name, crystallized ginger, and I'm only too happy to make room on the shelf.
Crystallized ginger is fresh ginger that has been peeled, cut into small knobs, boiled in sugar and water, and then rolled in sugar crystals. It retains the pungent flavor of the fresh ginger rhizome, but the bite is counterbalanced by the sweetness of the sugar. It's easy to make, and also easy to purchase online (I go to Penzeys or King Arthur Flour) or in your local Asian market or supermarket baking aisle.
Stored in an airtight container, crystallized ginger will keep for up to two years. If it clumps or the sugar on the outside of the individual pieces begins to deteriorate, the ginger has passed its prime and should be replaced.
My husband has been known to eat it like candy, straight out of the bag, and it's often prescribed for everything from motion sickness to morning sickness. Most people, however, use crystallized ginger to bake wonderful treats, and I do that, too.
Among my friends, I'm known as "she who should never be asked to bring dessert." I am not ungenerous; I'm a bake-o-phobe. So when Betsy and Rob came for lunch a couple of weeks ago and I needed to make a dessert to follow a light meal, I dug deep in the pantry and came up with this quick cake. Add a scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt on top. Serves 9.
1 box whole-wheat gingerbread mix
1 heaping tsp powdered ginger
1-2 Tbsp finely chopped crystallized ginger
Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat the bottom and sides of a 9x9-inch baking pan with baking spray. In a large bowl, make the gingerbread mix according to package directions. Stir in powdered and crystallized gingers, and mix well. Pour into the prepared pan and bake 30-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan on a cooling rack.
Other recipes that use crystallized ginger:
Summer cherry and crystallized ginger crumb bar, from Cookin' Canuck
Crystallized ginger cookies, from Alpineberry
Pumpkin white chocolate chunk and candied ginger blondies, from Picky Palate
Coconut ice cream with crystallized ginger, from Pink Bites
Ginger scones, from Homesick Texan