1824 English Gingerbread

English Gingerbread (Time 0_02_48;01)

The recipe I’m making today is what’s called a light gingerbread from John Cook’s 1824 cookbook, Cooking and Confectionary.

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. powdered ginger
  • 1 cup Light or Barbados Molasses warmed
  • 2 tbsp. Milk divided evenly
  • ¾ tsp Pearl Ash (or baking soda)
  • 1 tsp Alum (or vinegar)

Combine flour, ginger and molasses and set aside.English Gingerbread (Time 0_01_30;20)

In half of milk, dissolve pearl ash. In other half of milk, dissolve alum.English Gingerbread (Time 0_02_00;11) Combine all mixtures together and stir very well. You will end up with a very stick batter.English Gingerbread (Time 0_02_09;23)

Pour into dish that has been well buttered.English Gingerbread (Time 0_02_39;10) Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.English Gingerbread (Time 0_03_07;05)

Transcript of Video:

In this episode, I’m taking a step into the future. Well, not really so much the future. Normally we focus on the 18th century. In this episode, we’re going to be doing an early 19th century recipe. The recipe I’m making today is from John Cook’s 1824 cookbook, Cooking and Confectionary. This is what’s called a light gingerbread. I’ll explain in a minute exactly why this is so special. Thanks for joining us today on 18th Century Cooking with James Townsend and Son.

Today’s episode is the final companion piece to our exploring the 18th Century discussion where we talk about chemical leavening. So while this recipe that we’re doing today is actually a fairly simple, common sort of gingerbread, one of the interesting things is, it uses alum as one of the leavening agents, so in our “Exploring the 18th Century Chemical Leavening” series, we talked about bread adulterants in the mid-18th century and how there was great alarm at the bakers using alum in their bread and yet here we have an early 19th century recipe that’s using alum as a leavening agent.

The original recipe is rather large, so I’ve downsized this considerably. We’re going to start with 2 cups of flour. To this, I’ll stir in 2 teaspoons of powdered ginger. Next, I’ll add 1 cup of light or Barbados molasses. Warming this first will make it easier to mix into the flour.

Now for our wet ingredients, I’ll take a few tablespoons of milk divided evenly. In half of this milk, I’ll dissolve ¾ of a teaspoon of pearl ash. In the other half, I’ll dissolve 1 teaspoon of alum. Pearl ash can be very difficult to find, so James Townsend and Son now carries food grade pearl ash in 2 ounce bottles. You can substitute it with baking soda, but baking soda was a mid-19th century invention. Alum can be found in the spice section in your local grocer. If you would prefer not to use alum, you can use a couple tablespoons of vinegar instead. Now I’ll stir this in very well. The result is a very sticky batter.

I’m going to bake this in a tart tin that has been well buttered. If you’re baking this at home, you’ll want to preheat your oven and bake this at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.

We’ve got to give this a try.

Mmm. Very wonderful, very fluffy. It’s got a great gingerbread taste with the mix between the ginger and the molasses. This is an excellent, very interesting, almost like a ginger cake. Very moist though. This is really something special.

If you haven’t watched our “Exploring the 18th Century” Series on chemical leavening, I really invite you to do so. It really helps tease out and get to the roots of chemical leavening all throughout the 18th and 19th century.


This entry was posted in 19th Century Cooking, Baking, Bread, Historic Cooking, Ingredients, Recipe, Video and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to 1824 English Gingerbread

  1. dstevens2013 says:

    *Thank You lairdandjonelle for sending all these old colonial recipes emails over the past few weeks. I’ve watched some of the savouring the past videos produced by James Townsend and Sons a while back, so it has been nice to revisit them. Makes me want to dress up like Dolly Madison and cook up somethin’! XOXOX Daniel *

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