One of my most favourite smells in the whole wide world is gingerbread….a big pan of bunn and golden syrup melting on the stove, pouring in a fat swirl of treacle and then slowly stirring in freshly grated gingerbread……even when I’m feeling all fraught and anxious, wondering how what’s in my purse will stretch to gifts or how I can make the hands on the clock slow down so I have enough time to check everything off, taking a few minutes out o potter about in the kitchen seems to restore better than you can imagine….
I love making gingerbread men, or little houses and for those I use the recipe I wrote about a couple of years ago….but our main stove is currently not working so I’m making do with a little one and for that a tray bake will suit much better……
This was originally a recipe from an old Marguerite Pattern book I received when I left Primary school but over the years I’ve tinkered and added to it and have now perfected a really moist and richly spiced Winter cake……
I whole heartedly advise buying a Japanese ginger grater, I bought mine from a local health food shop but you can pick them up quite easily at Asian food stores and they are about a fiver….they grate up the ginger so well, actually they sort of mush it and allow the juice to be extracted so well, the fibrery part I just squeeze out and then pop into the compost…..
I also make up a batch of spice mix at the start of December and then it’s all there ready to use over the holiday season, I like to grind my own spices so they are more intense flavoured but if you use pre-ground you might want to add a little more to what you are making…..
My gingerbread spice mix (good for sticky cake as well as the biscuits)
4 parts Cinnamon……3 parts Ginger……1 part Clove….I part Mace…1 part Star Anise…..
(I also quite often add a handful of dried edible rose petals in the spice grinder and add that scant powder to the spice blend as well…..)
4 oz butter (doesn’t really matter if it is unsalted but it does need to be butter and not a “I can’t believe…” style spread…trust me, you will taste the difference)
40z dark muscovado sugar
4oz golden syryp
40z black treacle or black strap molasses
8 oz plain flour
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda dissolvedin a tablespoon of warm water
1 1/2 tablespoon of mixed spice mix (or 1 really heaped one…sometimes I just do 2 of these)
2 medium eggs beaten
6 tablespoons milk (full fat or semi skimmed or half cream/half semi skimmed…I’ve tried them all and a little fat does make this taste nicer and lighter…)
an adult thumb size piece of fresh ginger that is freshly grated
A well lined 8 inch square baking tin (I use baking parchment)
preheat the oven to gas mark 3, 325 f, 170 c…..tin wants ot bee placed in the middle so arrange your shelf height before hand……
in a heavy bottomed pan put in the butter and dollop in the golden syryp and treacle (wiping the spoon over with a little vegetable oil will mean the sticky syrups slide off easy peasy)…slowly lelt over a low heat…..while this is melting add the sugar, spice mix and grate in the ginger (squeeze the fibres that cling to the grater….)….stir well and just breathe in that wonderful aroma…….
take the pan off the heat and stir in the tablespoons of milk, beat the two eggs and gently stir those in two and finally add in the dissolved bicarbonate of soda……
measure out the flour, sift into a large bowl and then pour in the spicy scented thick and sticky liquid, beat until nicley mixed through….this is quite runny, but fear not……
por the batter into the lined tin and bake for between 45-60 minutes……until the bake is risen and just firm when you gently press down on the top.
place the tin on a cooling rack and allow to cool for a good 15 minutes before removing and allowing to further cool on the rack…..
once the cake is cold you can either eat it (yum) or cover it in a lemon icing (yum yum) or wrap it in tin foil and leave for a few days………hard work knowing it is there but the flavours mingle and the cake gets stickier…once it is unwrapped you can also ice it, the lemony icing seems to cut through the sweet perfectly.
Sift 200g of icing sugar and slowly add the juice of a lemon, you don’t want the icing over runny, drizzle on top of the gingerbread and allow to dry before cutting……enjoy a fat slice with a nice pot of tea.
If you want to substiture 4oz of flour for 4oz of fine oatmeal to make a more traditional parkin (which will want to be kept foil wrapped for a week before cutting) then go ahead…….
(my gingerbread man was made by my friend Sasha)
I love making this so much, like I say, it allows me to switch off, put verything else to one side and just lose myslef in the smells and memories this conjurs up….those all so familiar Tate and Lyle tins which never change and the nose tingling scent of ginger and spices slowly simmering away on the stove….