The Ladies' Tea Guild

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

World War 2-era gingerbread for the new year!

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 Happy New Year!  While I didn't get Mrs. Beeton's Christmas Cake made this season, I did do a batch of my gluten-free cuccidati for my aunt and cousin, my rum-soaked fruit cake, and one of the recipes from my grandma's World War 2-era cookbook Burnt Toast Recipes: Victory Edition.  I have to be careful when making the recipes from this book; sometimes they're great (like the fruit cobbler recipe), but sometimes they're weird (like the mashed baked bean sandwich recipe) ... This one is a good one.  Of course, I didn't have all the ingredients so I had to improvise a bit, but it turned out a really yummy gingerbread that puffed up nicely in the oven (although it sank down once it cooled), and smells and tastes nice.  Here's the recipe [with my alterations in brackets]:

Fluffy Gingerbread 
½ c. sugar
1 egg
½ c. dark molasses
1 ¾ c. flour
1 tsp. soda
1 ½ tsp. cinnamon 
1 tsp. ginger (or more, to taste) [I used 1 1/2 tsp.]
¼ tsp. salt
½ c. sour cream or sour milk [I used milk soured with lemon juice]
½ c. shortening (or half butter) [I used all butter]

To creamed shortening and sugar, add well beaten egg and molasses.  Sift flour once, measure and sift again with soda, salt, and spices.  Add alternately with the liquids to the creamed mixture.  Mix thoroughly and bake 30 minutes in 350 degree oven in a shallow pan.  Cut in squares. Makes 8 squares of very light fluffy gingerbread.  Top with whipped cream. 

--from Mrs. Arthur Doran, Mrs. F.O. Welch, and Mrs. Joseph Gilchrist, Burnt Toast Recipes, c. 1942.  

I think I made this gingerbread recipe a few years ago, and baked it in a jelly roll pan (even though it doesn't specify that's how it should be baked), and really liked it, but then lost the recipe.  I've been trying to find "that soft ginger cake recipe" for years now, and I think I finally found it!  It happens to be the only one in my books that specifies what kind of pan to bake it in, but it only says "bake in a shallow pan."  I baked it in individual quarter-loaf pans for Christmas gifts, filling the pans halfway; the gingerbread rose to fill the pans while in the oven, and stayed risen until they cooled.  It is really nice, which is surprising for a war-era recipe.   Other period gingerbread recipes I've tried had almost no spice and ginger in them (understandably, since fresh supplies of spices and ginger were things that became unavailable during the war), and they were hardly sweet at all and very dry.  This recipe was not too sweet, unsurprisingly, but definitely sweet enough to count as a dessert, and although it was a little bit dry, it has a nice spice flavor and ginger bite!  It has a permanent place in my Christmas recipe file.  

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Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)