Jan 5 2013

Ginger Bread

White peppercorns

Mortar and Pestle for that Authentic Feel

This dessert was an adventure.

I returned to Boston from Texas on Thursday, which was basically an all-day travel event. I did not get the opportunity to do any shopping that night, instead opting to order in. Today (Friday) I went to three different grocery stores as I attempted to collect all the ingredients I needed for various food adventures. Things that are not normally difficult to acquire were scarce. I managed to get everything I needed, but…

  • White peppercorns: I could only find bulk whole white peppercorns at one store. I decided I’d just grind them myself rather than continue on in the futile search.
  • Four day old bread: few stores hold onto day old bread anymore. I ended up buying a fresh, preservative-free loaf and instead sliced it thinly and toasted it to achieve the same effect.

I should also make it clear here that ginger bread is not the same thing as our modern gingerbread that we use in miniature house construction.

So, I decided to create the ginger bread found in Pleyn Delit, page 122.

bread sliced

Bread sliced

more bread slices

Bread slices

So, in an ideal world I would have made the bread myself a few days ago and let it sit out. Instead, I had to hasten the bread’s age with some clever tricks. I knew I would have to toast it (but not burn it!) to dry it out. I should have cut the slices thinner, by the way, so if you ever need to do this yourself – save yourself the hassle and slice the loaf as thinly as you can manage it. Or find unseasoned breadcrumbs at the store.

First effort at crushing dried out, toasted bread

First effort at crushing dried out, toasted bread

So, to crush up the bread into fine breadcrumbs, I thought I’d grind them by hand. HA. I realized about the time that I took this photo that while the ladle was doing a commendable job, it was not going to be nearly fine enough or fast enough for my purposes. I decided to switch… to the blender.

Bread in a blender

Bread in a blender

Laugh all you want, I thought it was pretty clever.

Bread in a blender

Bread in a blender

It did a decent job and actually got some really fine bread crumbs going, but it was having difficulty with the occasional softer piece that found its way in. It’s my roommate’s blender so I decided to move onto my food processor.

Breadcrumbs in the food processor

Breadcrumbs in the food processor

It did the job magnificently.

Guess which was burnt?

Guess which was burnt?

By the way, I burned some of the toast – is it obvious which batch?

If you look at the pictures, you can see the bread has some LARGE crumbs in it. These were softer pieces that I needed to remove, toast/dry out, and grind up again.

Straining out the bigger pieces

Straining out the bigger pieces

I used a colander to strain out the larger pieces.

Toasting some of the remaining breadcrumbs

Toasting some of the remaining breadcrumbs

I toasted the remaining breadcrumbs. I use a toaster oven, by the way, and greatly prefer it over a conventional toaster. It lets me do things like this!

I then moved on to get my pinch of white peppercorns.

White peppercorns

White whole peppercorns

Ground peppercorns

Ground white peppercorns

I felt very authentic, grinding up my own spices!

Now it was time to actually get started on the recipe itself!

Honey on the hob

Honey on the stove

This was laughably easy after the bread adventure. The half-cup of honey covers the base pretty nicely. I used a hard plastic spatula to scrape all the honey out of my measuring cup.

Boiling honey

Boiling honey

Boiling the honey is pretty obvious, as well. As soon as it hit boiling, I dropped the temperature down to low and dumped in the bread crumbs. I will point out that the recipe is vague on what constitutes a loaf, but I used a smallish loaf from Whole Foods and removed two slices (for my own dinner!). I’d hazard it was 4-5 cups, but I failed to measure it before dumping it in.

Add the breadcrumbs

Add the breadcrumbs and spices

Like so many recipes, it looks like there was no way it would work. It was super-dry and it didn’t seem like there was nearly enough honey for the bread. Wrong. I had faith and kept stirring, taking care to break up larger clumps so that the mix would stick together better.

Well-stirred

Well-stirred

And it was plainly obvious when it was well-stirred. I was worried I wouldn’t know when it was “done,” but thankfully this wasn’t the case. When everything is sticking together and there’s no stray dry bits, it’s done. Take this opportunity to turn the burner off – when it’s on low, it’s easy to miss that there are still flames going!

Patting down

Patting down the bread

I immediately poured and scraped it into the pan. I patted down the ginger bread, trying to get a flat “bottom” on it. This will be turned over tomorrow and served, so I didn’t want this part to be too uneven. The bread is surprisingly springy and forgiving while warm. It turns out that it is very common to form it into shapes and serve it up that way. I stuck with the recipe, but if I fix this in the future, I may try to do just that!

While I shall have to wait until after tomorrow’s party to share the reactions of others, I can tell you that the bits I sneaked off to taste were really yummy. I may bring a small container of honey for folks to drizzle over it, but I honestly don’t think this recipe really needs it.

If I’d already had the breadcrumbs ready, this recipe would have been really easy. Anyone looking to try making it at home should try to find plain breadcrumbs to use.  It was still a straightforward first outing, overall, and I hope it will be well-received.

RECIPE

  • 1/2 cup clear honey
  • 1 loaf of old seedless bread, ground into fine crumbs
  • 1 tspn powdered ginger
  • 1 tspn cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp white pepper

Boil honey and skin off any scum. I used a regular pot for this; the honey made a thin layer on the bottom. I knew the bread crumbs would eventually fill it up. Turn the heat down to its lowest setting. Stir in the breadcrumbs and spices. When it’s thick and well-blended, press firmly into a small non-stick cake pan. It is very malleable! You could make it into other shapes. I was boring this first time out. Cover and leave in a cool place overnight. Turn over for presentation. Cut into small slices and serve.

6 comments on “Ginger Bread

  1. If you used a dark amber honey, would it only make the loaf darker? I can’t imagine it would change the taste a whole lot… This sounds pretty tasty; can’t wait to hear others’ reactions.

    • It might make the outcome slightly darker, but mine was already darker than it should be because I burnt some of the bread in the toasting process. 😀

      It was definitely tasty and reminded me a bit of a granola bar, actually! I think in the future I’d serve it with honey drizzled on top if I wanted to keep it truly medieval, or with chocolate if I wanted more of a new world thing. Honestly, I liked it best right out of the pot, so I think I’d make it fresh for people and turn it into malleable little balls or similar and eat it shortly afterwards.

      genovefa on said:
  2. WHEW, I’m exhausted just reading about it!! But it looks like without the bread-toasting process, it’s pretty simple. 🙂 I generally hate gingerbread, but you say it isn’t like what we think of – is it the taste that’s different, or just the texture and malleability, or what?

    • It’s more like a… chewy honey-cinnamon-tiny-ginger crumbs thing. It looks vaguely like a granola bar when you eat it! I highly recommend drizzling honey over it or dipping it in a bit of chocolate (if you want that new world experience instead of the authentic medieval taste!).

      It is definitely absolute nothing like the gingerbread we use in gingerbread houses!

      genovefa on said:

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