This 18th-century recipe comes from Eliza Smith’s book, The Compleat Housewife, or, Accomplish’d Gentlewoman’s Companion from 1727. I have a delicate copy from 1737 and it is one of my most precious possessions. This gingerbread is one of my favourites from the book.
This gingerbread takes the form of small cushions. It remains soft on the inside and is fragrant with coriander and caraway seeds.
- 130 g (4½ oz) golden syrup or maple syrup
- 35 g (1¼ oz) black treacle ( see Note)
- 115 g (4 oz) butter
- ½ egg
- 55 g (2 oz) soft brown sugar
- 6 g (¹⁄8 oz) ground ginger
- ½ tsp ground cloves
- ½ tsp ground mace
- ½ tsp ground coriander seeds
- ½ tsp ground caraway seeds
- 200 g (7 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
- 100 g (3½ oz) wholemeal plain (all-purpose) flour or oat flour
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
For the best result, make the dough one day in advance.
1. Melt the golden syrup, treacle and butter together in a saucepan over low heat. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well, then set aside to cool.
2. Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F). Line a large baking tray with baking paper.
3. Knead the dough, then roll it into balls, using about 33 g (1 oz) of dough per biscuit, and place on the tray. Lightly press the balls down.
4. Bake for 15–20 minutes, then transfer the gingerbreads to a wire rack to cool.
• If you can’t get hold of Lyle’s black treacle, you can use another brand or even molasses, but I’m not particularly fond of the stronger taste. It’s worth the effort in hunting down Lyle’s. A pinch of salt is not called for in Eliza’s recipe, but I do find it improves the flavour.
Recipe and image from Oats in the North, Wheat from the South by Regula Ysewijn, photography by Regula Ysewijn (Murdoch Books, $49.99). Out now.