Spice and Ice: Nice

Cunningham's latest book is "Cooking With Children" (Alfred A. Knopf, 1995)

When I was teaching cooking classes at home a few years ago, there was one woman who attended nearly all of the sessions. She was a passionate cook, and a good one, but her approach to cooking was always a little, well, different. I suppose you could say that she loved the element of surprise in food.

She was the first person I knew, for instance, to poach a whole fish in her dishwasher. She would wrap the fish, a few lemon slices, some herbs and a bit of butter snugly in several layers of aluminum foil and send it through the wash cycle. I’ve never tested the technique, but she said the fish cooked perfectly.

The other day I came across a wonderful recipe for lemon ice cream that she had shared with the class. It sparkles with flavor, and no one can complain that it takes much time or effort to make. Note: No ice cream machine--or dishwasher--is required.

Thinking of lemon ice cream makes me wonder: Where has all the gingerbread gone? Cold lemon ice cream and warm gingerbread are meant for each other.


Early Americans made the distinction between gingerbread and ginger cookies by calling the former soft gingerbread and the latter hard gingerbread. Soft gingerbread was more often considered a bread to be served with roast pork, ham or a good beef stew. The following recipe is for a rich, dark, soft gingerbread. Serve it with warm applesauce, whipped cream or this lemon ice cream. If you want to try this recipe as a bread to accompany a roast, reduce the sugar to 1/4 cup.


2 1/2 cups flour, plus extra for preparing pan

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons ginger

1 teaspoon cloves

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened, plus extra for greasing pan

1/2 cup sugar


1 cup dark molasses

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 cup boiling water

2 eggs, slightly beaten


Combine flour, cinnamon, ginger and cloves and sift together onto piece of wax paper. Set aside.

Beat butter in large mixing bowl until smooth and creamy. Add sugar and molasses and beat until well blended. Combine baking soda and boiling water and add to butter-sugar mixture, beating well. Add flour mixture and beat until batter is smooth. Beat in eggs.

Pour into greased and floured 8-inch-square baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool in pan 5 minutes. Turn onto rack. Serve warm or cool.

16 servings. Each serving:


213 calories; 242 mg sodium; 44 mg cholesterol; 7 grams fat; 36 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 0.68 gram fiber.


1 large or 2 small lemons (enough for 4 to 5 tablespoons juice)

1 cup sugar


2 cups heavy whipping cream

Grate zest of lemon into 8-inch-square glass baking dish. Add lemon juice and sugar and stir until completely blended, 1 to 2 minutes. Add cream and stir until thoroughly mixed and smooth.

Cover dish with foil. Freeze until mixture is set, 4 or more hours. Do not stir.

3 cups. Each 1/2-cup serving:


406 calories; 30 mg sodium; 109 mg cholesterol; 29 grams fat; 37 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 0.11 gram fiber.