The only thing I love more than a delicious baked good is a great story about unconventional heroes fighting off the apocalypse, and Ash and Thorn, amazingly, comes with both.
Lottie Thorn, unlike most “chosen one” figures, is a septuagenarian hero with very little patience for all this “apocalypse” business. She’s a feisty and fun protagonist, but with an entirely different outlook than your average Buffy or Percy or Harry. Accompanied by a similarly aged mentor, Peruvia, and her young student, Sarah, Lottie fights off demons with a skillet and sheer tenacity.
The first issue, out June 24, is an absolute blast to read, with witty, snappy dialog by Mariah McCourt, beautiful, textured artwork by Soo Lee, a gorgeous color palette by Pippa Bowland, and letters — including some wonderfully disgusting sound effects — by Rob Steen. I thoroughly enjoyed the first issue and look forward to seeing what sinister delights the series holds.
But Ash and Thorn is special not just because of its unique protagonist and wonderful execution — each issue comes with recipes. As an amateur baker with a half-jar of molasses I’ve been looking for an excuse to use up, I jumped right on the Apocalyptically Delicious Gingerbread recipe included with the first issue.
The secret in this recipe is molasses. And also an impending apocalypse! That makes any baked good 1000x more delicious, because it might be your last.
I do have molasses, and this is 2020, one of the most apocalyptic years I’ve had the displeasure of living through. I feel like that suffices!
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup molasses
½ cup brown sugar
3-4 tbs ground ginger (or more, I like ginger!)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 block cashew butter
Now, like any good amateur, I made some changes to this recipe as I cooked it. First, I don’t have cashew butter, so I substituted regular butter instead. Second, I realized midway through making the batter that I was extremely low on ginger. I added what I had left, which was more in the range of two tablespoons than three or four.
Cream butter, molasses, sugar together. Add 2 eggs. Add spices. Mix flour and baking soda together, then slowly combine with wet ingredients.
Form a dough and chill in fridge for one hour.
All of this went perfectly well. The batter tasted great, though my lack of ginger did mean it wasn’t as spicy as it should have been. Definitely follow the recipe on this one.
Roll out dough to about half an inch thickness and cut into shapes or round cookies.
Here’s where things broke down. The batter, even after chilling for an hour, was the stickiest batter I’ve ever worked with. I had to add an additional 2+ cups of flour to stop it from sticking to my hands, the rolling pin, the countertop, and itself, and my attempt at using cookie cutters to make shapes was an utter and complete disaster. After a lot of cussing, I used a flour-dusted jar to cut circles out of the dough, which mostly worked. Many of them were lopsided and flopping around as I tried to place them on the sheet, but I gave up caring because WWAC readers deserve the truth, which is that I’m not good at baking and this batter is my enemy.
Bake 6-8 minutes at 350. Do NOT overbake or they will burn. They should be just very slightly browned, so keep an eye on them!
Definitely follow this to the letter. None of my cookies burned, per se, but a few of them got overdone and the taste is sub-par.
The good ones, however, are delicious! They have a nice, dense texture halfway between a cookie and a bread, with a robust molasses flavor and a delicate spiciness. As I mentioned, my lack of ginger does hold the flavor back a bit—if I were more ambitious, I might have chopped some candied ginger and baked it into the top—but I’m still stuffing my face with them, so I can’t complain too much!
All in all, Ash and Thorn is an impressive debut; the comic delighted me and the recipe was delicious, if a bit frustrating to bake. I’ll be sticking around for issue two, though we’ll see if my baking aspirations hold up!