Those of you who regularly read Serendipity Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth may recall that a couple of months ago Marilyn posted a recipe for Ginger Bread. I thought it sounded pretty good and decided to try it out.
This gingerbread is baked as a loaf, like banana bread. It’s not the same as the harder textured gingerbread of fairy tale fame. When I lived in South Australia I was quite familiar with the German style gingerbread baked into shapes or used to construct a gingerbread house. It is rather like eating ginger flavoured cardboard but nice for decorating.
Marilyn’s recipe uses molasses, I didn’t have any in the house so I asked her if she thought it would work with Golden Syrup which I always have in the pantry. She said she didn’t see why not, so my first attempt was using that, I didn’t have the cloves mentioned in the recipe but as it was only 1/4 teaspoon I didn’t think leaving it out would make a lot of difference. I also used brown sugar because I didn’t have a lot of caster sugar at the time.
I used to know a lady who did a cooking program on community radio and she said that one of the reasons that recipes that you get from other people don’t always come out the same as theirs is that little things can change the result. Your grandma’s 1 cup of flour could be completely different from yours, especially if she was using a china tea cup while you are using a standard measuring cup. That’s why she advised people to weigh their ingredients. Apparently even whether you add your flour by just pouring it into the bowl or spooning it in can make a difference. When I bake I like to sift my flour as I pour it into the bowl on the scales. Sometimes, although not for this recipe, I sift it again as I pour it from scales to mixing bowl.
One of the things I find when I follow American recipes is that you often have to check your weights and measures as Australian ones can be different. In America they still use imperial weights and measures and ingredients can be sold in different sizes. Marilyn’s recipe called for half a stick of butter. How much was that I wondered? A little online research told me that in the USA butter is sold in pound and half pound packs each divided into quarter pound units called sticks. One stick weighs 110 grams. I also learned that American butter is much whiter than ours because cows there are mostly raised in barns and don’t get to eat grass. Grass contains beta carotene which makes butter yellow. There’s a fun fact for you.
I was pretty pleased with my first attempt but I was keen to try again with a different variation. For my next attempt I was able to obtain a jar of molasses from the supermarket. I found it a lot runnier than the golden syrup and therefore easier to pour. I used caster sugar this time but still didn’t have any cloves. This loaf came out much darker in colour and I could definitely taste a difference. Unfortunately , (Not really, it was delicious) I had already eaten all of the made with golden syrup loaf. I made another loaf to finish up the molasses and popped that into the freezer to save it for when Naomi visited. As it happened we ate a lot of Tim Tams and bought a cake from the market that weekend so we didn’t eat it. I decided to keep it in the freezer to compare with attempt three. This one definitely looked the nearest in colour to Marilyn’s. I think that the first time I made this recipe I may have undercooked it slightly. My convection microwave only allows me to change the temperature in increments of ten degrees Celsius. The second time I made it I did twenty minutes on 180 degrees and thirty minutes on 170. The result was a shinier loaf with a slightly different texture when cut. As Marilyn says, you have to know your own oven. I baked in a Pyrex loaf pan by the way. I spray it with oil and line it with baking paper and it comes out of the pan without a problem.
Is Molasses Treacle?
I also did some reading about the differences between molasses and treacle. There are several varieties of molasses and the difference is in how many times the syrup has been boiled. Dark Treacle is an acceptable substitute for Dark Molasses. I’ve included some links to articles that explain the differences better than I can. Anyway I decided that once the molasses were all gone I would attempt a version made with treacle.
Treacle is sweeter than molasses but it has the same runny consistency. This time I used caster sugar and I had remembered to buy cloves. Except , oops, the recipe said ground cloves. and I’d bought whole ones. Drat! I got out my little coffee grinder and ground up a tiny amount of cloves. This one turned out a bit lighter in colour than the molasses version and slightly sweeter but not as much as the golden syrup version which was what I expected.
The Proof Is In The Eating
After tasting all three versions I can say that I liked them all. The golden syrup is the sweetest and and lightest, more like cake I think I’d probably put more ginger and less sugar in next time I do this version.
The molasses version was the darkest in colour and had the most distinctive taste. I thought that it brought the taste of ginger out more but I was near the end of the ginger when I made that one and may have added more than the previous versions.
The treacle one was a lighter colour than the molasses version. You can see that the texture is a bit different too. I retrieved my molasses loaf from the freezer to compare with the treacle one and you can see definite differences in the appearance. I noticed with all three that the ginger flavour seemed to grow stronger after a day or so.
Anyway I had a lot of fun experimenting with this recipe. It’s not something I usually do and I enjoyed it. I wish I could visit with Marilyn and see what hers tastes like but I feel by sharing this experience I’ve done the next best thing. I hope that she won’t mind me including her recipe with my metric conversions of the amounts at the end. Now I think that I need to go and eat some.