It’s not the holidays around my house until the smell of gingerbread is wafting about.

I like to whip up loaves of gingerbread to have on hand for drop-in guests (it’s bound to happen at least once!), and for quick, delicious desserts. Add some salted caramel sauce or molasses whipped cream (I like both) for a sensational, seasonal end to a holiday gathering. If you happen to have any slices of gingerbread leftover, they also make great French toast.

Yes, that’s right! Gingerbread French toast is a thing. Top each serving with leftover salted caramel sauce and fresh fruit, and your dessert has turned into brunch. Apparently calories don’t count in December, so go ahead and have molasses whipped cream on the French toast, too.

To spice up my gingerbread, I add not only ground ginger, but a good grating of the fresh stuff as well. Orange zest adds lovely citrus notes, and a generous pinch of ground black pepper makes you go, “Hmm…something gorgeous is in here, but I’m not sure what.” The gingerbread has wonderful, tender crumb and smells like magic when you take it out of the oven. Versatile for dessert or brunch, it’s the little loaf that keeps on giving. Who doesn’t need that, especially at Christmas?

Orange Spice Gingerbread with Salted Caramel Sauce and Molasses Whipped Cream

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Makes 8-10 slices 

1½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp salt
¹/8 tsp ground cloves
¹/8 tsp ground black pepper (optional)
½ cup (120 mL) pumpkin purée
½ cup butter, melted
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup (120 mL)fancy molasses
1 Tbs grated fresh ginger root
2 tsp orange zest
2 large eggs, beaten
2 Tbs (30 mL) water

1. Grease a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan and line it with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350º F and place a rack in the centre of the oven.
2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, spices and baking soda. Mix well.
3. In another large bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients.
4. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, just until they are combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. 5. Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, and then remove the gingerbread from the pan and let it cool completely before slicing.

Salted Caramel

Makes about 1½ cups 

1 cup granulated sugar
1¼ cups (300 mL) whipping cream
2 tsp flaky salt, such as Maldon
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract

1. Heat the sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir with a wooden spoon occasionally until it starts to melt.
2. Stop stirring and let the sugar cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until it’s dark amber —about 7-9 minutes. Be sure not to burn the sugar.
3. Meanwhile, heat the whipping cream in a small saucepan until bubbles start to form on the sides of the pot.
4. When the sugar is dark amber, remove the pot from the heat and gradually pour the hot cream into the hot sugar — be careful, as a large waft of steam will come off of sugar.
5. Put the pot back on medium heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the caramel cooks down and is smooth.
6. Pour the caramel into a medium bowl, and stir in the salt and vanilla. Let it come to room temperature.

Note: Store in a covered container in the fridge for up to 1 week. 

Molasses Whipped Cream

1½ cups (360 mL) whipping cream
1 Tbs (15 mL) molasses

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, beat together the whipping cream and molasses until firm peaks form. Serve with the gingerbread and salted caramel sauce.

Orange Spice Gingerbread French Toast

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1 large egg
½ cup + 2 Tbs (150 mL) whole milk
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
2-3 Tbs butter
4 slices Orange Spice Gingerbread

1. Beat the egg in a shallow bowl. Whisk in the milk, sugar and vanilla.
2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
3. Dip the slices of gingerbread into the egg mixture, making sure both sides are well soaked.
4. Place the slices into the hot skillet and cook for a few minutes on each side, until golden. Turn down the heat if the French toast is browning too fast.
5. Serve with fresh fruit, salted caramel sauce (or maple syrup), and molasses whipped cream.

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