What is it with gingerbread? It never seems to taste of ginger. Whenever I read a recipe I scan down the ingredients and find “1 tsp ginger” and then have to re-read it several times quite certain its some sort of typo. Surely, at least a tablespoon is the minimum requirement.
Over the years, as I have experimented with a multitude of gingerbread recipes at Christmas, I have come to realise that what we call “gingerbread” is really just a spiced biscuit. Once accepted there are some truly wonderful flavours prioritised ahead of ginger. Cardamon for example is a genius addition to a festive biscuit. Orange zest, nutmeg, cinnamon (of course) are all welcome additions. So what I offer you here are two recipes. The first, courtesy of my friend Charlotte who, as a Dane, knows something about the importance of these little spiced biscuits at Christmas. The second is my “gingerfication” of her recipe which, on balance, has emerged with great success. It’s certainly very moist and crumbly, and I’ll tell you how I know.
Back in December 2014 my daughter and I made a batch of gingerbread men and one, for reasons neither of us can remember, remained uneaten. “Mr Ginger” as he has henceforth been known, has sat around in the kitchen, minus the odd limb, watching culinary proceedings throughout the year. Occasionally we make a friend for him, usually at Christmas. Last year “Mrs Ginger” lasted a few weeks before disappearing, probably mistakenly eaten by an unknowing guest. This year we made Mr Ginger another friend but, so moist and delicious is this particular recipe, that his head fell off.
So, there’s not long to go now but both of these recipes are super simple. One word of advice. If you want your gingerbread soft and chewy leave it a little thicker and bake for a couple of minutes less. If you like it crunchy go with thinner and a couple of minutes more, but don’t disappear off to do some wrapping because these little beauties are full of sugar and they will burn as soon as your back is turned.
If you cut out shapes and want to hang them on the tree make a hole in them with a straw while they are still hot from the oven. It’s really rather lovely inviting friends to help themselves to a biscuit from the tree when they pop in over the holidays.
If you’re in any doubt about which of these recipes to make I would go for both of them. Don’t worry about the biscuits getting eaten, they’ll disappear in no time.
Have a good Christmas and I’ll see you again in the New Year.
Charlotte’s Very Good Gingerbread Recipe
In a saucepan heat until melted together:
125g Golden Syrup
250g Dark Muscovado Sugar
When it has cooled add:
3 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Ginger
1 tsp Allspice
2 tsp Potash dissolved in cold water (if you can’t find potash use 1 tsp of Baking Powder)
150g Whole skinned almonds
Put 500g Plain Flour in a large bowl and pour over the buttery, sugary, spicy nut concoction. Mix well until everything is combined into a smooth and silky dough. Leave to cool for 24 hours (I’m impatient and I often don’t wait that long, but leave it to cool because otherwise the dough is impossible to work with).
Now you can divide it into blocks and simply thinly cut biscuits, or you can roll it out and make festive shapes. We enjoy the festive pig in my house.
Bake in a medium oven (Gas 5/375F/190C) for around 8 minutes. Keep an eye on them though because they’ll burn if you turn your back, and their cooking time will be influenced by how thinly you cut/roll them.
Graham’s Very Gingery Gingerbread Recipe
The process is identical to the one in Charlotte’s recipe but my ingredients are as follows.
75g Golden Syrup (Agave Syrup is great too)
50g Ginger syrup from a jar of ginger in syrup (if you don’t have one simply use 125g of Golden Syrup as per Charlotte’s recipe)
125g Dark Muscovado Sugar
125g Light Muscovado Sugar (using half lighter sugar gives a slightly less treacle taste which I prefer)
1 tsp Cinnamon
4 tsp Ginger
1 tsp Allspice
2 tsp Potash (dissolved in cold water)
500g Plain Flour
I don’t add any nuts because my children don’t like them. My way around this is to make gingerbread without the nuts and then eat a handful of nuts. I surprise myself sometimes.