On Friday, we had our annual mince pie and mulled wine party. I have been so busy baking for this that I have not had much time to write these recipes up, nor to publish the older posts. I managed to wipe out all of the photos, and have not taken good records, so it is a little time-consuming to go back through all my archives and find the right pictures. I also had an international Christmas dinner for other friends yesterday. I have a lot to write up. They will all be up soon, I’m sure!
This year, I decided to try to make some other nibbles from English and Dutch traditions, most of which will appear here in the next few days.
I wanted to make gingerbread, the old-fashioned kind that is dense and soft – not biscuity, like the sort that you make gingerbread men with.
The basic idea is that you make a syrupy sponge, and then let it sit for a couple of days, so that it acquires the dense, sticky texture that I desired.
Of course, you can’t decorate them like you can with gingerbread men, but since this was an adult party, then I don’t suppose any of my guests minded.
I have been making this recipe for years, but there are many very similar ones that I have seen in cook books.
Recipe: Old-Fashioned Gingerbread
280 g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
170 g softened unsalted butter. I use the pat of butter that I keep in a butter dish out of the fridge
90 g lichte basterdsuiker, or soft brown sugar
220 g golden syrup. I get this from home, but if you are in the Netherlands, and cannot get golden syrup, then I am pretty sure the stroop that you can buy to eat with pancakes will be fine instead.
200 ml milk
4 balls of preserved stem ginger
2-3 tbsp ginger syrup (from the preserved ginger jar)
Set your oven to 180°C
Mix the dry ingredients together. I don’t often bother to sieve ingredients when baking, although many recipes will call for it. It has never really affected anything that I bake. If you are in the sieving camp, then do so by all means.
In a separate bowl, beat the sugar and the butter together. I used an electric hand whisk, but if you have Popeye arms (or would like them) then a wooden spoon will do just as well. The mixture needs to be fluffy and several shades lighter than when you started.
Beat in the golden syrup, and the ginger syrup until it is thoroughly combined. When trying to get the golden syrup out of the tin, use a hot spoon (just hold it in hot water for a few seconds), if you don’t want to spend way too long waiting as the syrup drips sloooooowly from your spoon to the mixture below. If you are using stroop, then this is a little runnier than golden syrup, and comes in a handy squeezy bottle, so you shouldn’t have this problem.
Add the egg, and a tablespoonful of the flour mix (which should stop the batter from separating) and beat until it is all well combined.
Mix the flour in really well, then beat in the milk. You should get a really thick batter.
Finely chop the ginger, and stir it through the batter.
Pour into a square cake tin, about 20cm across. the bottom must be lined with greaseproof paper, and the sides well buttered (or brushed with oil). If you only have a round one, this is also fine, but I like to serve flat slices, for aesthetic purposes.
Because I hate waste, and don’t have children, I use a spatula to ensure that I get all of the batter into the tin, and scrape the bowl and the remains off the whisk. I did allow myself a tiny bit from the spatula after I had as much in the tin as I could physically get. It was a good job I waited too, the golden syrup makes this batter as moreish as crack.
Bake it in the oven for about 40 mins, or until a skewer pushed into the centre comes out clean. Leave it in the tin until it is cool enough to handle, then put it on a wire cooling rack.
You can eat it like this, when it is spongy and cakey. Better still, wrap it in greasproof paper and store it in an airtight container for 4-5 days, whereupon it will be sticky and dark and lovely. This is really good with a nice, proper cup of tea. People who enjoy Pickwick need not apply!