Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Bonfire Night Gingerbread


Ah, Bonfire Night.  You either love it or hate it.  Despite the concerted attempts of the marketeers to turn Hallowe'en into the big event of the autumn months, Bonfire Night, 5 days later, still has a hold on we Brits. Whilst Hallowe'en festivities are much older and used to include bonfires, it is now all about dressing up, making lanterns, apple bobbing and, if you're lucky, ghost stories.  Come 5 November burning an effigy on a fire and setting off a lot of noisy fireworks appeals to a deep rooted anarchic streak in the British psyche.  Rarely does Guy Fawkes top our bonfires these days to symbolise his failed attempt to blow up the English Parliament in 1605, but rather an effigy of some hate figure who has emerged over the previous 12 months.

At least the excuse for a good bonfire means an opportunity to gather round, cook and eat. Traditionally it would have been food that could be cooked in the embers of the fire after the initial blaze and would, at least, have been potatoes in their skins. Wrapped in foil and tossed into the glowing remains they are a must for bonfire night but I'm sure you are planning to be more imaginative.  Here's my contribution - Gingerbread.  Not to be confused with the Gingerbread Biscuit mixture, this is most definitely a cake but was traditionally named 'Gingerbread'.  In some parts of the country the preference for a Bonfire Night cake would be for Parkin (made with the addition of fine oatmeal) but this gloriously spicy, treacly cake is my preference.  You can butter it or serve with a slice of Lancashire cheese but it's very good just as it comes.  The recipe is adapted from The Bread Book by Linda Colister & Anthony Blake.  Make it TWO DAYS ahead of your bonfire party to enjoy it at its sticky best.

Gingerbread slice

(for a 2lb loaf tin)

225g(8oz) self-raising flour
1tsp bicarbonate soda
1 tbsp ground ginger (if you use the last ingredient listed, reduce this to 1 dessertspoon)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp ground mixed spice
110g (4oz) cold, diced butter
110g (4oz) black treacle
110g (4oz) golden syrup
110g (4oz)  muscovado sugar
280ml (10fl oz) milk
1 large egg
Optional: 3 knobs of stem ginger in syrup, thiny sliced

Butter and bottom line a 2lb loaf tin with greaseproof paper.  Pre-heat oven to 180oC/gas 4. Melt the treacle and syrup together, then cool to blood heat.  Over a low heat, dissolve the sugar in the milk, stirring.  Sift together flour, bicarbonate soda and spices.  Rub in the butter until it looks like fine breadcrumbs.  Whisk in the milk and sugar mix, followed by the treacle mix, then the egg.  If using, fold in the sliced stem ginger.  You should have a thin batter.  Pour this into the prepared loaf tin.

Bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.  The cake will sink back a little.  Leave to cool in the tin, then turn out and peel off the lining paper.  Wrap the cake in fresh greaseproof paper, then in foil.   If you can resist, keep for two days before slicing.