Once upon a time, Ted and I had a cat named Henry, who was the color of powdered ginger and had a temperament to match.
He was fiery and full of personality, sometimes unexpected, with a bit of a bite.
And that's just how I'd describe powdered ginger.
Also called ground ginger, powdered ginger is made by drying the fresh ginger rhizome, and then grinding it into a fine powder. As the rhizomes can be quite fibrous, it's best to buy the spice already ground. Purchase from a reliable source and, if possible, taste before you buy; the best quality powdered ginger should be pungent (not bitter) and lemony.
Used primarily -- though not exclusively -- for baking, powdered ginger's flavor is very different from fresh ginger. Many sources suggest that 1/8 teaspoon of dried ginger can substitute for 1 tablespoon of fresh or crystallized ginger, but please don't do it. Trust me; these are two different animals, fresh and powdered, and the taste isn't remotely the same.
In the 19th Century, British bartenders kept shakers of powdered ginger on the bar, so patrons could add a bit to their drinks. I don't know why or when the practice ended, but I say bring back the ginger shaker.
Keep one on the bar, to make your own ginger ale, and another on the kitchen counter, in case you get the urge to bake ginger-pear-saffron cake, molasses-ginger spice snaps, Guinness ginger cake, Chinese five-spice chocolate cupcakes, pumpkin spice scones, apricot and pistachio cake, or old-fashioned gingerbread.
Kate's ginger shortcakes
Pastry chef extraordinaire Kate Jennings, co-owner of Farmstead and La Laiterie in Providence, Rhode Island, created and gave her permission for me to share this recipe, which makes 6 large biscuits, perfect for afternoon tea. The double ginger, powdered and crystallized, gives these a more pronounced ginger flavor than the biscotti in my previous post.
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 Tbsp powdered ginger
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1-1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) cold, cubed butter
3 Tbsp chopped crystallized ginger
1 cup buttermilk
Procedure: Mix dry ingredients by hand. Add cold, cubed butter and crystallized ginger, and cut in until combined. Add buttermilk and knead until the dough comes together. Make 6 large biscuits. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, until golden.
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