This is one of the most delicious gingerbread experiences you will ever have. It is moist but not soggy, gloriously gingery but not overpowering, and has a dark alluring stickiness that is simply more-ish. So however restrained you think you may be, you will always at least consider that one piece was just not enough.
Of course it isn’t my recipe but that of the lady herself, Ms Lawson. Interestingly, whatever people opine about Nigella, there is always a given; the girl knows how to chuck a good bake together, and this one is no exception.
This style of gingerbread, although not related to bread in any way, is soft and therefore more synonymous with the Lafayette style gingerbread, (Miss Leslie’s New Cookery Book, [T.B. Peterson:Philadelphia PA] 1857 (p. 538-539) as opposed to the more medieval European culinary tradition of gingerbread very popular with the Germans. Think gingerbread house; crisp and biscuit like, tea dunkable, but you’ve got to watch it as it goes ‘on the turn’ very quickly.
Ginger, having been flavouring foods from ancient times onwards and, thanks to the spice trade, becoming part of our European cultural heritage from as early as the 11th Century, is a wonderful spice and one whose versatility can never be underestimated. I could go on as I do find the history of foods quite fascinating, and for those of you who share my delight, here is as good a place as any to start your journey. For the rest of you, you may now stop skim reading …
There are many ideas of why gingerbread is so synonymous with Christmas, but for me it represents home. I always used to go home – which to me meant my mum’s house – at some point over the Christmas holidays, to be greeted by a glorious smell, a sparkling smile and an engulfing hug filled with love. Very lucky. Ironically, we only truly appreciate those magical moments when we no longer have them. However, although I no longer have a home to go to, I have been taught well, and am immediately transported to that place when I cook gingerbread.
Which leads me, almost seamlessly, to another little mum-tip for you. If you’re trying to sell your house make sure, just before a viewing, that you have either just baked bread or made gingerbread. The house becomes filled with the smell of a warm welcome which is very difficult to resist.
Anyway, the first batch of gingerbread that I cooked in my new to me oven, was not as successful as it should have been. Two reasons. Firstly, distracted by my big sister and her pal popping by (my excuse, my blog, sticking to it…) I managed to put a teaspoon of baking powder instead of bicarbonate of soda into the two tablespoonfuls of warm water, and secondly, I made the fateful mistake of leaving it in the oven over the recommended time of 45 – 60 minutes, working on the old cooker mindset that it would need at least another 15 minutes.
The result of gingerbread number one was that, although edible, it didn’t have the ‘I need more or I’ll not survive the day’ feel to it. And this recipe especially, benefits from being slightly undercooked rather than overcooked.
So, batch number two was cooked the other day after having had a little word with myself regarding the need to focus on ingredients, and keep an eye on the time, and yes, this time it was everything it should be.
Just a word of warning, if you’re making it to take over to someone’s house, remember that you will need to make enough for everyone in your house to have at least one piece before wrapping it up, otherwise there will be sulking…