Crystallized ginger is an ingredient most bakers are very familiar with because the flavor and texture can add so much to a recipe, especially cakes and muffins. When people speak or write of ginger, they are usually referring to the ginger root – a spicy hot and fragrant spice used predominantly in Indian and Asian cuisine. The younger roots -“baby ginger” – are milder and juicer and are often used to make crystallized ginger or candied baby ginger by simply cooking the root in sugar until it becomes soft and chewy. The sugar forms a protective coating around the ginger root thus acting as a natural preservative.
Crystallized ginger can be formed many ways and all too often the crystallized ginger in grocery stores contains additives, oils, or preservatives so it is important to read the label. The Ginger People, based out of Australia and the United States (California) was established in 1984 and was born of the commitment to provide the world with world’s finest range of ginger products which now includes more than 80 items. One of the company’s most popular products is their crystallized ginger chips, a product that contains two ingredients: ginger and pure cane sugar and is known for its balance of spicy and sweet in a chewy chip.
The Ginger People’s factory in Caboolture, Australia specializes in sugar preserved ginger and is the world’s only producer of closed-kettle, artisan-style crystalized ginger. The use of a premier tender baby ginger combined with the small batch process of crystallizing the ginger with sugar captures the flavor of the ginger that would otherwise be lost using the large open-vat cooking method.
The ginger chips can be purchased at fine grocery stores throughout the United States, England, and Australia or on-line through Abes’s Market where a 2-pound bag sells for $21.99 with free shipping for all orders above $49. Amazon also sells the 3.5-ounce resealable pouch for about $5 or the 7-ounce resealable pouches in a 6-pack quantity for about $45 ($7.50 per bag) plus free shipping. At www.soap.com, 24 3.5-ounce resealable bags of crystallized ginger sell for $40 (or about $1.67 per bag) or a 7-ounce canister is $5.49 plus free shipping for all orders over $49.
Several years ago, I started making a gingerbread cake (from a recipe whose origination I can’t remember) and loved the intense flavor that ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves gave to the cake but wanted a lighter, moister version so I adapted the recipe to make a flavorful “seasonal” cake that is no longer limited to Thanksgiving time (although I always find myself making this cake in November and December). The addition of the crystallized ginger pieces adds a subtle chewy burst of flavor and a caramelized texture to the top of the cake as the chips sink to the bottom of the pan (which forms the top of the cake when inverted).
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I used Daisy “Clarks Cream” All Purpose Flour)
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup unsulfured molasses
1/4 cup water
2 eggs, room temperature
1 cup buttermilk or 1 cup of water plus 1/4 cup buttermilk powder
1/2 cup crystalized ginger pieces
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.
- Add the molasses and butter to the dry ingredients and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes until well blended.
- Add the buttermilk and water and mix for 1 minute on medium speed until blended.
- Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each.
- Stir in the crystallized ginger pieces.
- Pour into a well buttered bundt pan and cook for approximately 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.
- Allow to cool for 15 minutes and then invert into a cake plate (don’t be alarmed if some of the ginger pieces stick to the bottom of the pan).
- When warm to the touch, slice and serve plain or with whipped cream.