It’s not a day for making gingerbread today. The sun is out, I’ve re-hung the washing line, and I feel like wearing yellow – I won’t though because it makes me look like I’ve just emerged from over-wintering somewhere above the Arctic Circle. Orange will have to do.
If I was baking today, I’d be making something dainty or Easterish or both. Instead I made gingerbread a couple of days ago. I’d been craving it for some time. My bones were cold and winter was going on far too long. I needed something dark, warm and comforting. Easterish and dainty will have to wait.
I haven’t made gingerbread before. Not the dark, sticky, cakey kind anyway. If I feel like a piece, I’ll buy a slab of McVities Jamaican Ginger. I have anyway, to act as a comparison. It does, of course, mean that I’ll have to eat twice as much cake as usual. What a chore.
The recipe for Classic Sticky Gingerbread in Mary Berry’s Baking Bible didn’t seem too difficult so I decided to enlist the help of my four-year old. He agreed, but only when I mentioned that there was going to be golden syrup and that he might, just might mind you, get to lick the spoon.
The first step was to grease and line the tin. The recipe uses a 30x23cm traybake or roasting tin. I have a 23×23 tin, or a 30×30. I decided to go with the smaller one and put any spare mixture into muffin cases. Too much cake mix is always better than too little.
I put butter, light muscovado sugar, golden syrup and black treacle into a pan and put it over a low heat. There must be a knack to accurately measuring syrup and treacle from can to pan that I do not possess. There should have been 225g of each. I ended up with 240g of golden syrup and 236g of black treacle and, because of the way it flowed over the butter and sugar, I couldn’t do my usual trick of scooping up the excess and putting it back. I hadn’t even used a spoon, and my trusty assistant was starting to feel like I’d conned him into the kitchen. I had to provide a “Special Spoon” of golden syrup to avoid a mutiny.
While the butter mixture was warming up, I stirred self-raising flour, wholemeal self-raising flour and ground ginger together while my assistant broke two eggs into some milk and gave them a stir. I wasn’t very accurate with the ginger. My teaspoon won’t fit into the jar, and I couldn’t find my smaller measures. I was a bit concerned with the pungency of the mixture, that my gingerbread would end up far too gingery. The eggs and milk were mixed together perfectly once I’d fished the shells out.
Once the butter mixture had cooled, we mixed it and the milk and eggs into the flour and both had a good go at beating everything together until we had a smooth batter. We had enough mixture to fill the tin and five muffin cases.
They went into the oven at 160° fan. The cooking time in the recipe is 50 minutes, or until the cake is golden, well-risen and springy to the touch. My gingerbread didn’t really turn golden because it was so dark,so I took it out when it was well-risen and springy. This was, actually, dead on the 50 minutes given in the recipe.
I let the gingerbread cool in the tin for a while and then turned it onto a wire rack.
To be honest, I was expecting a brick of a cake with the crater of Vesuvius in the middle (Mary explains that there may well be a dip in the middle if there’s too much syrup or treacle in the mixture). I was really pleased when my slab of gingerbread looked shiny, dip-free, and pretty appetizing. Much nicer than it looks in the picture. Honest.
As to taste, my taster-in-chief wouldn’t touch it with a dinosaur net, “I don’t like ginger,” he said, “it’s too spicy.” Fair enough. My deputy taster-in-chief wolfed down one of the muffins in no time, but that’s what happens with any kind of cake in her world. I compared a piece with a slice of McVities. The main differences were in the appearance and texture. My gingerbread definitely (in my opinion) looked better than the shop-bought. It was darker, shinier and stickier. Taste-wise, they were pretty similar, although the homemade version had more essence of black treacle about it, which, as a fan of black treacle, I really like. A definite win for the homemade over shop-bought. It’s Mary over McVities for gingerbread for me from now on.