Roo has lived in our apartment for about ten years. Two years ago, I remember getting buzzed into the building and walking up three flights of winding stairs, before reaching the top floor apartment. Our date was spent sitting on his bed, as his roommate was in the television room and there was no where else for us to go. The bed was by three uninsulated windows, and I remember being so cold, as I felt the November chill find its way through the seams. We talked, sipped whiskey, and listened to a Best of Tom Petty album. It was pretty great.
The apartment at the time housed bachelors that were there to do three things: eat, sleep and poop (Everyone Poops, I hope you’re now over it). Cleaning was not on the top of the list, and while I myself admit to being a slob, these boys made me look like a reality star from Obsessed.
When Roo asked me to move in with him last year, there was no denying it, I knew what I was getting into…
The kitchen housed a broken toilet (literally, in the middle of the floor) and five cinderblocks.
There wasn’t a refrigerator.
The bathroom did not have properly functioning toilet. You had to stick your hand in the cold tank to pull on the chain to make it flush. I hated this.
Said toilet completely broke before I moved in, and then the kitchen housed two broken toilets.
I once tried to be “helpful” by picking up a large dustball off the floor, but it turned out to be a mouse the cats had killed god-only-knows-when.
There wasn’t hand soap in the entire apartment at the time. Anywhere.
I ended up cleaning my hands with shampoo, wailing (wailing helps with decontamination) over a sink that is “old fashioned” with separate “hot” and “cold” spouts. Going from “burn” to “freeze” also helped with decontaminating. Sure.
Roo was incredibly sweet when he asked me to live with him last July, as he immediately followed his question with, “but I’ll make sure that this place is nice by September. Everyone’s moved out now so I can make this place so much better. I promise.”
While there were only two rooms that were barely functional in the house (the kitchen and the bathroom), Roo only had enough money to re-vamp one. I asked for a working toilet, but as for how the bathroom looked itself, that wasn’t really a deal breaker for me. What did make me hesitant was the state of the kitchen. And Roo didn’t let me down.
Roo repainted the walls, bought us a new refrigerator, removed the items that were being stored there (ie two toilets and five cinder blocks), and basically made it beautiful place to make my meals. He moved an old oak table he had in storage to one side of the kitchen, so we could eat there. Even the floors were steam-cleaned, and right before I started unpacking my pans, he pulled out some shelving from the guest bedroom to store my cookbooks.
As the anniversary of our first date approaches, I can’t help but think of the first thing I made Roo and brought over to his apartment. It was towards the end of November, practically right on top of Thanksgiving. I was in an obsessive phase with pumpkin (but who isn’t this time of year?), so I baked him a loaf of pumpkin bread.
This year, I wanted to make something that brought together the flavors from my favorite family holiday (Thanksgiving) and Roo’s (Christmas), but had no idea how to do it. When I stumbled upon Elise’s recipe for Pumpkin Gingerbread, it was the inspiration I was looking for. Rich molasses swirled into a smooth pumpkin puree, bold flavors such as ginger and cinnamon shining through, made a cake that I was incredibly eager to share. I’ve already packed a bunch of slices for my co-workers for when I see them next.
I think Roo will enjoy this for breakfast this week, especially as with time, the flavors truly meld together and make something I’m sure he won’t mind skipping his daily Starbucks $3 holiday loaf for.
Adapted from Simply Recipes
Makes One Loaf (or, if you’d like to reduce the baking time, split the batter into two loaf pans)
One and a half cups of white whole wheat flour
Quarter teaspoon of fine sea salt
One rounded teaspoon of baking soda
2 teaspoons of ground ginger
One and a half teaspoons of ground cinnamon
Quarter teaspoon of ground nutmeg
One and a quarter cups of pumpkin puree
Quarter cup of butter (like Earth Balance), melted
Half cup of turbinado sugar (you can use regular sugar, turbinado was all I had)
Half cup of molasses
1 tablespoon of fresh ginger, grated
2 flax seed eggs (2 tablespoons of ground flax seed and 6 tablespoons of warm water, combined and set aside for about 5 minutes)
3 tablespoons of water
Half cup of raisins (optional)
Extra turbinado sugar for sprinkling (optional)
A large mixing bowl
A medium mixing bowl
A 9×5 loaf pan
Parchment paper, or butter and flour to grease your pan
Place your oven rack to the middle position in the oven. Preheat your oven to 350F.
In a medium mixing bowl add the white whole wheat flour, salt, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. Whisk the ingredients together until they are well combined and there are no longer any lumps.
In the large mixing bowl add the pumpkin puree, melted butter, sugar, molasses, fresh grated ginger, flax seed eggs and water. Mix till the ingredients are combined. Be sure to scrape down the bowl so that all ingredients are incorporated.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet, in increments. Stir the ingredients till combined. Add the raisins, if using, and stir till combined. Again, be sure to scrape down the bowl so that all ingredients are incorporated.
Scoop out the batter into a prepared loaf pan (either lined with parchment paper, or buttered and floured). Bake for one hour ten minutes to an hour and a twenty minutes (this cake is filled to the max with pumpkin, so it’s going to take a while to cook through). At the hour marker, remove the pan and sprinkle a little turbinado sugar on top, if using. At the hour five marker, remove the pan and check to see if it’s done with a cake tester, like a toothpick. If it pulls out clean, it’s done. If not bake for an additional five minutes and keep checking until it’s done.
Remove the pan from the oven and allow it to cool (in the pan) for about ten minutes. Run a knife along the edge of the loaf and remove it from the pan. Allow it to cool till room temperature before serving. If you can wait till overnight to eat it, the flavor of the cake will be so much better. But, we couldn’t, we’re not judging.