Why do weekends go so fast? I know it's a cliche but it is true. This weekend we did nice things: on Saturday we had lunch with my parents and then saw my grandmother, who had baked a lovely walnut cake and made us tea. Yesterday we went shopping and I indulged in the Clarins event at John Lewis (my excuse is that I have poor skin and cheap products often give me a rash. Make of that what you will) and bought some espresso cups that I had been craving. I also baked gingerbread (see below) and we had roast beef for Sunday dinner (which we have in the evening...) which was as delicious as it always is (Don't worry. I didn't take a picture of it. I am sure you all know what a rib of beef looks like) and suddenly I woke up and it was Monday. It seems to have been raining for days here; we haven't had the snow that has plagued other parts of Britain, but we have had interminable rain.
Anyway, onto food. After I wrote the last post mentioning gingerbread, the thought of gingerbread insinuated its way naughtily into my head (isn't it always the way...?) and so I felt obliged to make Jamie's ultimate gingerbread recipe yesterday. It is derived from the fabulous recipe from a shop in Grasmere, a recipe that is around 150 years old and has attracted much publicity - I think this is it here; the owner keeps the recipe a secret, and this is Jamie's attempt to recreate the secret recipe. I have never tasted the original and thus can't comment on the comparison, but I am now feeling the need to make a trip to Grasmere.
This gingerbread has a shortbread base, which, Jamie suggests, you can make yourself from his shortbread recipe or buy. His shortbread recipe is utterly heavenly and I have vowed not to go back to the bought stuff, so I made the shortbread first, but of course Simon saw it come out of the oven and was excited at being given that shortbread again - it is, honestly, delectable. I could see the disappointment in his face when I admitted that the shortbread was simply one ingredient in the gingerbread. I admit I shared his misgivings - the shortbread is just too good to waste if the gingerbread doesn't turn out really well - but I knew that I had to get past that stage and get on with making the gingerbread. A little voice was playing in my head, though, as I turned the shortbread into gingerbread, saying, repeatedly, 'this won't be as good as the shortbread on its own'.
To make the gingerbread, blitz the shortbread with some powdered ginger and caster sugar, setting aside 100g of the mix. Add mixed peel, crystallized ginger, plain flour and baking powder; pulse until well mixed.
Melt a mixture of butter, treacle and golden syrup in a large pan, then add the mix from the food processor and stir until combined. Spoon the mix into a baking tray and smooth it level across the baking tray with a spatula or your fingers; once flat, bake in an oven preheated to 170C for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and scatter over the reserved shortbread mixture, pressing it down with your fingers or a spatula. Cut into pieces with a sharp knife and then leave to cool before turning out.
The smell of ginger was almost irresistible as the gingerbread cooked and cooled. I was worried about removing it from the tray as initially it seemed a bit bendy, but once it had cooled it was easy to lift out and serve. And I am happy to report that I definitely hadn't wasted the shortbread - this gingerbread is incredibly gingery and has masses of flavour; it is really the ultimate gingerbread, not just one of Jamie's over-statements. It was even better today, which I find is an important criterion in judging recipes because when I bake on Sundays I really want a piece of baked goodness to cheer me up on a wet Monday faced with hungover students and moaning colleagues. As I ate a piece after lunch today, I remembered that Jamie suggests that as well as eating it as a biscuit, you could use it as a cheesecake base... which is now somewhat inevitably making me dream of gingerbread cheesecake. A good way to spend a Monday evening!