Every year I am on the search for my perfect molasses, gingery, kind of cookie or sweet bread. Every year I feel disappointed and recipes miss the mark. Some come close and I fall in love occasionally but they aren't quite 'it'. I thought maybe my expectations were too high. What exactly was I looking for? A certain smell, a certain taste ...there was something I have had in my past that I wanted to have again, only I didn't know what it was. My search ended when I made this bread for the first time.
This recipe is from a British baking book and has very English ingredients that can be found at specialty stores like Whole Foods or Fresh & Easy (west coast). I bought this recipe book because my nearest and dearest friend and roommate, Andy, is British and I wanted to make him his favorite treats from home, such as Bakewell Tarts. Andy has been here in the US for about 16 years and while he does go back to the U.K. from time to time, it's not the same having an occassional treat. I wanted to make him happy and do something special for him on a more frequent basis, bringing home to him.
This recipe calls for Black Treacle and Golden Syrup which were things I had never heard of. This happens often when I make recipes from this book and I have to go to him for translation from English to American. Their references for granulated sugar, fine sugar, and confectioners' sugar are different, not surprisingly, so I need to keep in mind to be careful when I read the ingredients to check if it's just a name difference or truly a different product.
On our trip to Fresh & Easy, when we found what I will call, the English section, he was like a kid reliving fond food memories. There were all kinds of things that reminded him of home, like clotted cream (used with jam on scones), the treacle and golden syrup, of course, and several other things I had no knowledge of. I stood there just listening to him as his eyes excitedly made their way around to all the goodies and he openly, and quite enthusiastically, shared memories of these things. It was fun!
Black Treacle is similar to molasses yet different. Molasses is much sweeter than black treacle. The Golden Syrup is sweet but lighter, maybe similar to a corn syrup, but better - tastier.
This cake was a surprise to my taste buds, so moist and flavorful, that I couldn't stop eating it. I wanted to taste it again and again. It was the first time I had really baked with both of these new ingredients in the same recipe and it was magical...it was different! It was a nice change and a very successful sweet bread that had all the markings of a wintery holiday cake. It was the kind of experience that when we both ate our first piece, said " That's Ridiculous"!
The other special addition to the ingredients was dark brown muscavado, which is an unrefined, strong brown sugar that has a molasses kind of taste, and is stickier than normal brown sugar you find at local stores. Muscavado has a very distinct smell and flavor and is used sometimes in the making of rum (yum!). I happened to have some on hand already when I had spied it at Whole Foods one time, and curious, I bought it, not knowing what to do with it. Traditional recipes I work from do not ever mention muscavado.
Here is the recipe along with some fun background on it straight from the book. Enjoy!
" A deliciously spicy, sticky dark ginger cake from Scotland and northern England, quickly made by melting and mixing. Nowadays the cake is usually left plain and un-iced, but in early medieval days it was a solid mixture of flour, honey and spices, baked until hard, then heavily decorated with cloves covered in gilt, gilded leaves and as much ornamentation as possible. The recipe has gradually evolved from a work of art to an edible delight. You can still add a decoration of edible gold leaf or white glace icing after baking, though, if you would like something a little fancier. It is excellent eaten with butter or a wedge of Lancashire cheese. The flavour gets better as it matures, so plan to make this at least a day before cutting."
225 g self-rising flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground mixed spice
115 g unsalted butter, chilled & diced
115 g black treacle
115g golden syrup
115g dark brown muscavado sugar
275 ml whole milk
1 medium free range egg, beaten
A 900 g loaf tin, about 26 x 13 x 7cm, greased with butter and lined with greaseproof paper.
Heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger, cinnamon, and mixed spice into a large mixing bowl. Add the diced butter and run into the flour mix, using the tips of your fingers, until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
Spoon the treacle and golden syrup into a small pan and warm gently until melted and runny but not hot. Set aside until lukewarm. Put the sugar and milk into another pan and heat gently, stirring well to dissolve the sugar. Leave to cool until lukewarm, then whisk the milk into the flour mixture, quickly followed by the treacle mixture and the egg, to make a smooth thick batter, the consistency of double cream.
Put the mixture into the prepared tin. Bake the gingerbread in the heated oven for about 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out clean. Run a round-bladed knife around the inside of the tin to loosen the loaf, then set the tin on a wire rack and leave the ginger-bread to cool completely before turning out. Wrap the loaf in foil and leave for at least a day before cutting; it will get stickier the longer it is kept. Store in an air tight container.
- You could easily add whole ginger/chopped pieces to this recipe for an even more gingery taste. I am sure it would taste great, however, this bread is fantastic on its own.
- Be Careful! when wrapping this bread to set. It is SO MOIST that foil or anything directly touching the top may peel off the breading of the top because it is 'sticky' gingerbread! Then you really will need a glace of sorts to cover up the damage. So you almost need to wrap it with the top tented up. I learned the hard way.