If you didn’t catch the entirely edible creations at Medford’s Craterian Theater this weekend, today is your last chance for this year.
Fifty gingerbread sculptures are on display until 6 p.m. for an event that raises funds for Craterian Performances and ushers in the holiday season. Some of the valley’s master bakers returned to the GingerBread Jubilee competition this year after several years’ absence, enlivening the exhibit.
While the gingerbread perfumes the theater with the smell of sugar and spices, I invariably remind someone at the paper that the building materials are made for durability not deliciousness. So when your appetite for sweets is piqued after attending the Jubilee, consider this holiday-worthy twist on the classic cheesecake. This recipe, from the new “Martha Stewart’s Cakes,” would be welcome at celebrations through the next month.
All-purpose flour, for dusting
1/2 recipe Molasses-Gingerbread Cookie Dough (recipe follows; use remaining dough to make gingerbread men or reserve for another use)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 pounds (four 8-ounce bars) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
6 Gingerbread Men, for decorating (see instructions below)
Preheat oven to 350 F. On a generously floured piece of parchment, roll the cookie dough into a 10-by-13-inch rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick. Brush off excess flour. Slide dough and parchment onto a baking sheet. Bake until firm and golden-brown, for about 14 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack to cool completely. Break into large pieces, then pulse in a food processor until finely ground.
In a bowl, combine the butter, 1/4 cup of the sugar and 2 cups cookie crumbs in a bowl. Press mixture firmly and evenly into bottom and one-third up sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake in preheated oven until set, for about 10 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
Reduce oven temperature to 325 F. Wrap exterior of springform pan with a double layer of foil. Set a kettle of water to a boil. With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the cream cheese until fluffy and smooth, for about 3 minutes. Beat in remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar and the vanilla, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Reduce speed to low. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in the molasses, salt, spices lemon and zest. Pour filling into cooled crust.
Set foil-wrapped springform pan in a large, shallow roasting pan. Carefully pour boiling water into roasting pan to reach halfway up side of springform pan. Bake cheesecake in preheated oven until set but still slightly wobbly in center, for 60 to 65 minutes. Transfer springform pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 8 hours (preferably overnight).
Before serving, run a knife around edge of cheesecake to loosen; remove sides of pan. Arrange the gingerbread cookies in center of cake in a circle, if desired.
Makes 10 servings.
Molasses-Gingerbread Cookie Dough
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup unsulfured molasses
Royal Icing (recipe follows)
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and spices.
With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add the egg, beating well. Beat in the molasses. Reduce speed to low. Gradually add the flour mixture; beat until just combined.
Divide dough into 2 portions; wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate until ready to use, for at least 1 hour.
For gingerbread men, preheat oven to 350 F. On a generously floured piece of parchment, roll dough to a scant 1/4 inch thick. Freeze for 15 minutes. Cut out gingerbread men with a 2-inch cookie cutter. Freeze shapes on parchment-lined baking sheets for 15 minutes. Bake in preheated oven for 6 minutes. Remove sheets from oven; tap firmly on counter. Return to oven; bake until crisp, for 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer sheets to wire racks to cool completely. If desired, pipe buttons onto cookies with the Royal Icing.
ROYAL ICING: With an electric mixer on low speed, beat 1 pound (4 cups) powdered sugar and 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon meringue powder with a scant 1/2 cup water until smooth, for about 7 minutes. If icing is too thick, add more water, a little at a time, beating until icing holds a ribbon on surface for a few seconds when beater is lifted; if too thin, continue mixing for 2 to 3 minutes more. Use immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week; stir well with a flexible spatula before using. Makes about 2 1/2 cups.