Nothing can be better on a chilly afternoon than warm Gingerbread cakes. In 1803, the poet William Wordsworth, home sick with a cold, certainly thought so. His sister, Dorothy records:
“Wm. had a fancy for some gingerbread; I put on Molly’s cloak and my spencer and walked towards Mathew Newton’s. . . the blind man and his sister were sitting by the fire. All seemed very clean in their Sunday clothes. They took their little stock of gingerbread out of the cupboard, and I bought 6 pennyworth. They were so grateful.”
In England, gingerbread refers not to a cake, but a type of biscuit made with ginger. It commonly takes the form of a gingerbread man. Gingerbread men are first attributed to Queen Elizabeth I, who allegedly served the figurines to foreign dignitaries. Today, however, they are generally served at Christmastime.
Take 3 pd of flower a pd of sugar & a pd of butter rubbd very fine an ounce of ginger & a grated nutmeg mix it with a pd of treacle & a quarter of a pt of cream warmed together to make up your bread stiff roul them out cut them in little cakes bake them in a slack oven
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup melted margarine
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 cup unsulfered molasses
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon lemon extract
4 cups stone-ground or unbleached flour, unsifted
Combine the sugar, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda. Mix well. Add the melted margarine, evaporated milk and molasses. Add the extracts. Mix well. Add the flour 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly. The dough should be stiff enough to handle without sticking to fingers. Knead the dough for a smoother texture. Add up to ½ cup additional flour if necessary to prevent sticking. When the dough is smooth, roll it out ¼ inch think on a floured surface and cut it into cookies. Bake on floured or greased cookie sheets in a preheated 375 F oven for 10 to 12 minutes. The gingerbread is done when they spring back when touched.
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