What they ate!

When General Lafayette, the French hero, came to visit George Washington in the 1870s, Mary Ball Washington, Georges mother, famously prepared Gingerbread.  

The soft cake like gingerbread she offered was popular in those days, it is recorded to have been a favorite of the writer Louisa May Alcott and Emily Dickinson, and yet it seems to have made its way into extinction.  Its hard biscuit cousin being the "gingerbread" of today! It is a pity, because, after the soft yielding squares that were cooling into my kitchen became too much of a temptation, I discovered that the ancestor of the hard brittle gingerbread man is actually a superior sensation of taste and texture.  

I wanted to recreate this softer cake like biscuit, and so set about bastardising a few recipes until I was happy.  I found the rigmarole of online recipes for "Lafayette Gingerbread" ridiculous and unnecessary so using our dear Hannah Glasses recipe as a base I came up with my own.  Here is a simple recipe for 19th century gingerbread that can be whipped up in a minute, even if a processor.

You'll need
3.5 cups (1 lb) of flour (I used my measuring cups for this recipe instead of the scales)
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp nutmeg
A good pinch of white pepper
6 oz of soft butter
6 oz of golden caster sugar
1 cup golden syrup or treacle
2/3 tbsp cream

Mix everything together until you have a firm dough, like a shortbread.  Fashion into a square, as deep as a brownie tray and bake for 15-20 minutes until the top is browning at the edges.  

Leave to cool, cut into brownie size squares.


rachel said...

love it Lisa! Love the little bit of history that comes with the recipe. I'm planning on making a gingerbread pear cobbler in the nest few days- I'll post it if it's any good.

Lisa said...

that sounds amazing... the world of cobblers is new to me but I'd definatley like to try that!

Ciara said...

It must be the time of year. We've been making gingerbread men and I've tried two recipes, one which is a snappy biscuit, and one which is soft and chewy but still a biscuit.
I've only once made this type of cakey gingerbread using Nigella's recipe (with lemon icing-yum) from her Goddess book. I'd forgotten how nice it is! Thanks for the reminder!

Emily said...

Your "old fashioned" gingerbread sounds really good. I tried real gingerbread for the first time last year. It blew me away. I'm really enjoying the bits of history that you have been including with your posts.

Michelle said...

It sounds like I very much need to make this! I love cookies that have ginger in them, I have a molasses cookie that is like a chewy gingersnap. I like the square shape too!

Lisa said...

Thanks for all your comments!

Ciara, Nigellas one is completely different though, hers is like the Jamaican ginger cake you can buy, this one has a soft shortbread texture, comepletely different.

Nicole said...

Oh wow. That is a cool story. We have gingerbread cake here. Not just the hard form but like a cake. But it is more of a dark brown and we serve it with ice cream or whipped cream on top.

Lo said...

OH! I had no idea about the history of this cake... but it's the gingerbread we make over at our house. I use a darker molasses in mine, so it's a slightly deeper shade of brown (in fact, I like blackstrap molasses for this particular application). But, I agree. It's a shame that this form has gone out of vogue!