Historic Recipe: Ginger-Bread Cakes (1774)

Source: The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glasse (1774)

Available free through Google Books here

It’s been a really long time since I last posted and for that I’m sorry – life has been a bit all over the place this year, but things have settled down in the last couple of months. As of September, I have moved to Edinburgh and I’m now working for the National Trust for Scotland.

We held a Georgian-themed Christmas event at work last week and I rather foolishly agreed to make a range of eighteenth century treats for people to try, this included bannocks and flummery as well as these rather Christmassy biscuits.

Recipe:
Take three pounds of flour, one pound of sugar, one pound of butter rubbed in very fine, two ounces of ginger beat fine, one large nutmeg grated, then take a pound of treacle, a quarter of a pint of cream, make them warm together, and make up the bread stiff; roll it out, and make it up into thin cakes, cut them out with a teacup, or small glass; or roll them out like nuts, and bake them on tin plates in a slack oven.

I halved the recipe and used ground ginger instead of fresh (2 tbsp) and 1 tbsp of ground nutmeg. I rubbed the butter into the flour and spices as though I was making a crumble and then added the warm treacle and cream. It took quite a bit of work to get the mixture to come together, but it did finally and then rolled out smoothly. I experimented with a range of thicknesses and it seemed to work best when the dough was about 1cm. I used a range of cutters including a teacup, the actual cutters were defintely easier to use. I then cooked the biscuits on a greaseproof-covered baking tray for 10 minutes at 180oC. They came out a bit wobbly but set nicely as they cooled and were crunchy round the outside and softer in the middle.

These went down a storm at the event – the texture is lovely, but they taste more treacle-ly than modern gingerbread.

Suggested alterations: None

Final verdict: I’m probably not going to add this recipe to my roster of favourites but all in all they were pretty good.

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