Also known as "thick gingerbread". This recipe is from a pretty old, fairly dubious piece of research called "Encyclopaedia of European Cooking" from 1963. It covers most of Europe from a very British-centric early 60s viewpoint and the general feeling is that most of the countries' recipes should be well avoided. I've just been reading Julian Barnes A Pedant In The Kitchen (great stuff) and reckon this book fits right into one of his cookbook ownership criteria:
"Avoid books with too wide a compass - anything remotely called Great Dishes of the World - or too narrow a one: Sargasso Seafood or Waffle Wonderment. "
Love it! Anyway, I had mentioned this book once when I made a honigkeok from a pretty dubious recipe in the Dutch secion. It turned out flat as a board and just sat there in a sulk even refusing to be toasted. However, someone in Australia wrote to me a few weeks ago to say that their parents' house burnt down in a fire a few months ago, with all their belongings, and this book which contained all their treasured Christmas recipes went with it. In her searching online for a replacement she found a link to my blog and asked asked if it would be at all possible to copy a couple of pages for her so she could surprise her family with their traditional Christmas cakes and puddings this year. Absolutely. And it made me feel good. See what a tangible way we can make somebody's Christmas happier through our foodblogs. :-)
She did note that she was of a similar opinion to me regarding this book of dubious merit: "Just don't try to cook anything but the German and English recipes from it!" and in keeping with that, the recipes she asked for were from the English and German sections; Christmas pudding; Royal Icing; Christmas cake; Marble Cake; and Thick Gingerbread - this she noted was particularly good as you left it overnight.
Well, with that kind of background, family tradition, and recommendation I just had to try it, It was easy to whip up, although I was little taken back by the amount of flour and treacle it required - half a kilo of each! I didn't have any almonds at home, so I subsitituted hazelnuts which I prefer in flavour anyway. The instruction to leave overnight was one I interpreted as to leave overnight in the fridge. This is evidently not the case as the next day I had to chip bits out of the pot with a carving knife. It made smoothing the surface a bit of an issue and I resorted to pummelling with my fists. No, I believe they mean to leave overnight at room temperature. Anyway, I think the recipe benefits from it as the flavours really develop in that time. I actually added a little fresh ginger and ground cloves to my version, as both are flavours I enjoy and work well in spicy treacle-based cakes.
The instruction for oven temperature was pretty vague. "Very Moderate". Well, what's that supposed to mean?? I set my oven to 165 C and cooked it for an hour. I was disappointed when taking it out as it seemed pretty hard and overcooked. I decided I had botched the recipe. Left it in the fridge, cooked it too long... Bah! However, I offered a piece to somebody who knows about these sort of things and they commented that it looked really good, but was maybe a little soft? They reckoned it could be harder! Geez! Do German people look forward to breaking their teeth at Christmas?!?
I like the flavour of this. It's not too sweet and has a real dark spiciness. It'd be perfect in cold weather with hot, steaming mugs of whatever you drink in snowy weather. But it's just as enjoyable here in the Aussie summer.
Read on for the recipe:
1 lb (500g) self-raising flour
1 lb (500g) dark treacle (or molasses)
4 oz (125g) brown sugar
3 oz (90g) chopped blanched almonds (or hazelnuts)
4 oz (125g) candied peel
4 oz (125g) butter
1 level teaspoon each: bicarbonate of soda and ground cinnamon
2 full teaspoons ground ginger
2-3 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 egg beaten with a little milk
Boil the sugar and treacle together until the sugar has dissolved, take from the heat, and stir in the butter. Sift the flour into a bowl with the spices, stir in the almonds and peel. Stir the bicarbonate of soda into the hot mixture, then as it froths, pour it into the dry ingredients and mix to a soft dough. Leave all night (at room temperature - not in the fridge!). Next day, spread it in a greased tin to a depth of about 1 1/2 inches. Brush the smoothed surgace over twice with the beaten egg and milk. Bake in a very moderate oven (~165 C) for about 1 hour. When the gingerbread has cooled, cut into squares.