Years ago, my late mother-in-law Nancy went to England, and brought back a package of Grasmere Gingerbread for Jim and me as a souvenir. It was delicious–almost like a gingery toffee shortbread sparkled with little nuggets of candied ginger. I tucked that taste memory away in the back of my mind, and kept the wrapper as a reminder. Thinking that candied ginger might be difficult to find, I made no effort to find a recipe.
When the other day I found candied ginger available at the local health food store, I decided to rummage through my recipe collection to see if I could find a recipe for Grasmere Gingerbread. Sure enough, I found an article called “England’s Lake District,” torn from an old Gourmet Magazine, and it included a recipe. It turns out that the town of Grasmere is just up the road from Dove Cottage, where Dorothy and William Wordsworth once lived, and the Gingerbread is a local specialty. I actually found that I have a number of recipes for this Gingerbread, and that some call it Grasmere Shortbread. To me, it has a chewy texture like an American bar cookie.
Into a bowl sift 1 cup flour with 1/2 teaspoon each of baking soda, cream of tartar, and ground ginger. Add 1 stick or 1/2 cup butter, cut into bits, and blend the mixture with your fingertips until it resembles meal. Stir in 2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar, 1 tablespoon honey, 1/4 cup golden raisins, and 1/4 cup chopped candied ginger. (I started mixing with a large spoon, and then found that I needed to finish mixing with my fingertips.)
Press the mixture into a buttered 8-inch cake pan and sprinkle it with two teaspoons of sugar. Bake the gingerbread in a preheated, 325 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes, cut it into wedges, and transfer the wedges to a rack to cool completely.
Recipe notes: The Gingerbread you see in the picture above is Batch 2. It was with Batch 1 that I discovered that the recipe must be followed to the letter. Use the 8-inch round cake pan–don’t use an 8 x 8″ square pan. Don’t use whole wheat pastry flour. And don’t bake longer than 35 minutes. I made all of these errors, and Batch 1 was so hard that a mallet couldn’t break it. Jim somehow tore it apart with his bare hands, and ate some with great difficulty. Made as above, though, it’s a buttery, chewy, gingery delight. Also, unless you loath raisins beyond all reason, include the golden raisins. They don’t taste raisin-y, and add to the chewiness. And, the original recipe called for 1 tablespoon golden syrup, not honey, so if you happen to have that, by all means, use it instead. One last thought, the American in me wonders if a chocolate glaze on this Gingerbread might not be delicious. Something to try with Batch 3!