Holiday Traditions: Revamping Gingerbread

“Your daughter made the entire class cry.”

My oldest was in Kindergarten when I received a phone call from her teacher who was concerned about the fallout of my daughter having caused distress to all her little classmates.

The evening before we had spoken with our children, only the two daughters at the time, about Saint Nicholas, about the real person who had cared deeply for the poor children of his country at the time, and how he had died but that his spirit lived on in the modern version of Santa Claus.  Apparently, the next day, when my daughter’s classmates were talking about Santa Claus, her little truthful autistic self felt compelled to let her classmates know that Saint Nicholas was dead,which her classmates interpreted as Santa Claus having just died and that there’d be no Christmas that year.

We had to have a nice long chat with our daughter about what exactly one can share with other people and exactly how one should go about sharing even if “it’s the truth” as she kept insisting.

What I remember clearly from the incident, though, was the surprise of the teacher when we explained that the issue arose because we didn’t actually encourage a belief in a current active Santa Claus, that we wanted our children to learn compassion and care for people around them by understanding what the real Saint Nicholas did because of his faith in God and that our children and we, too, could care for the people around us and take care of the poor because of our faith.

At the time, she seemed to think that we were somehow depriving our children of “imagination” as she put it. We argued that our children had plenty of that without any extra help from Santa Claus and that while we didn’t push a belief in Santa Claus, our children did believe in the Tooth Fairy and Leprechauns so they weren’t completely without a fairy world.

I doubt we convinced her, though, and I find that the same thing happens when it comes to food traditions for the holiday. Too often people tell me that they don’t want to try my holiday goodies because “it won’t be the same”. My argument is that it’s not supposed to be the same. Traditions are wonderful, and our family has boatloads of them, but change is good, too, and sometimes, something new can be even better than the original tradition, especially if it means that you can include the members of your family who otherwise would have to miss out on the food tradition because of their food allergies or restrictions.

One of the holiday food traditions in the States is the making of gingerbread. Last year, I shared how we had revamped a roll-out ginger cookie recipe. This year, I’m going to share a gingerbread recipe. We made this for my in-laws over Thanksgiving, and we tweaked it a bit to make it even better for Christmas.

Upside Down Pear Gingerbread


2  15 ounce cans pears in 100% pear juice

1 1/4 cup sorghum flour

1 1/4 cup cornstarch

2 tsp baking soda

1 tbsp ground ginger powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1 cup warmed pear juice from the canned pears

1/2 cup coconut sugar or regular sugar

1 cup date molasses or regular molasses

1/2 cup vegan soy free butter

2 beaten eggs

Baking Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

2. Grease the bottom of a glass pan. You can use vegan butter or shortening or a plant based oil of your choosing. You can use a 9 x 9 x 2 square pan or an 11 x 8 x 2 rectangular pan. Which type of pan you choose will slightly affect the baking time and how thick your gingerbread is.

3. Drain the pears from their cans, reserving the liquid for use as part of the wet ingredients.

4. Slice the pear halves into thin strips and arrange them on the bottom of your chosen pan. They will need to overlap with one another to create a nice thick layer of pears.

5. Whisk together the sorghum flour, cornstarch, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. Set aside.

6. Warm a cup of the leftover pear juice in the microwave until the juice is boiling. Microwaves may vary, but mine usually just needs about 45 seconds to a minute.

7. To the boiling pear juice add the sugar, molasses, and butter. Stir until everything is dissolved and well combined.

8. Mix together the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients with the beaten eggs, just until everything is combined and the dry ingredients are wet.

9. Carefully spread the gingerbread batter evenly over the pears and bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Depending on which size pan you use and whether it’s a glass pan or aluminum will affect the baking time, so set your time for 30 minutes and check from there. I make mine in an 11 x 8 x 2 glass pan which takes about 40 minutes. A 9 x 9 x 2 will probably take closer to 50 minutes. Aluminum pans may cook more quickly.

10. When the gingerbread is done, you can serve it as is, which is what I did for my in-laws and cut out pieces with the pears on the bottom, or if you want to do what I did for a party I hosted last week, you can carefully turn the pan onto a platter and serve the cake with the pear-side up which is very pretty.



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