The Hitchhiker's Guide to Ancient Cookery

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Alexandre Lerot d'Avigné
Jeff Berry
(Number 23 in the Series, March 2004)

Warts and All - a Wart

I said at the beginning of this series, that it was a warts and all collection of articles. What follows is a wart.

There had been some talk at Whyt Whey Commons about doing some kind of food/cooking get together and I volunteered my place. Since we've got an event coming in June with a dessert sideboard, we decided to focus on desserts. This is also probably good for me, since desserts are one of my weak points.

A few folks showed up and we chatted while I took a stab at this, from Markham's "The English Hus-wife:"
To make gingerbread
Take claret wine and colour it with turnsole, and put in sugar and set it to the fire; then take wheat bread finely grated and sifted, and liquorice, aniseeds, ginger and cinnamon beaten very small and searced; and put in your bread and your spice all together, and put them into the wine and boil it and stir it till it be thick; then mould it and print it at your pleasure, and let it stand neither too moist nor too warm.
(My edition of this is edited by Michael R. Best, who has regularized the spelling and who lists this a recipe 153 in chapter 11.)

So, I took some bread crumbs, threw in the various items listed above and ... well, it didn't really work at all.(Well, I didn't have any turnsole or liquorice, but otherwise all the stuff.)

First, I put in far too many aniseeds and not enough ginger. This is doubtless a matter of taste, but is easy to overpower the ginger with the aniseeed and it is gingerbread not anisebread.

Secondly, the texture was funny. It never got the point where I could "boil it and stir it till it be thick." My initial thought was that I had too little wine, so I added a bit more, but that didn't work. One of the attendees thought that maybe it had too much wine. I'm still not sure. It never really came together like a batter; there was nevery any "being thick," or something that looked like you could mold it.

We talked for a while about the possibility that what was needed was fresh bread, not stale crumbs. Eventually, though we decided that the instructions about grating the bread precluded that possibility.

Cariadoc has a recipe for Gingerbrede on the web. It also uses breadcrumbs, but not wine and sugar.

I may revisit this recipe at a later date, but for now it goes in the books as a failure.

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Comments are welcome.
Alexandre Lerot d'Avigné, Jeff Berry,

Copyright Jeff Berry
Originally webbed 17 March 2004
Last modified 17 March 2004