Ginger is big business in New Zealand. Whether it’s the pieces of Ginger Crunch available in every café and bakery, gingernut biscuits beloved by the Boyfriend’s parents, the many brands of commonly available ginger beer (not in the least bit like the insipid ginger ale mixer common in Irish bars) – the best of which is always a hotly debated topic of contention in the Boyfriend’s household – or Ginger Bear sweets (like gummy bears, but with a ginger kick) it seems like the Kiwis just can’t get enough ginger.
To keep up with this ginger fascination, I started thinking about making gingerbread. It was something I used to make often as a child, especially when I was working my way, recipe by recipe, through the first Stork Cookery Book. Without that book to guide me, I discovered that Nigella had a recipe for a rather unique Chocolate Gingerbread in her latest book, Feast. So, never being one to pass up a new variation on an old favourite, I tried this recipe. I have to say I wasn’t too impressed. Rather than gingerbread, it tasted of liquorice – not a favourite flavour of mine. The Boyfriend, however, loved it and, after he took a couple of pieces to work everyday that week, there wasn’t much left over.
I did like the recipe, however. It was a one-pot cake, all made in the one saucepan, therefore cutting down on dirty dishes – always a consideration when baking! So I decided to have another try. This time I substituted extra flour for the cocoa and chopped crystallised ginger for the chocolate chips and forgot about the icing completely. I’m not sure the Boyfriend liked it as much but this gingerbread variation was the one that I fell in love with. As dark and moist as the nicest of my childhood experiments but with the added extra kick from the embedded chunks of crystallised ginger. Gingerbread is a good keeper too so I’ve been able to nibble away at chunks of it all week. Just one tip – if you’re going to make the version with the crystallised ginger make sure you cut it up small and it’s worth tossing it in flour to make sure it doesn’t fall to the bottom of the mixture like mine did!
Butter – 175g
Dark muscovado sugar – 125g
Caster sugar – 2 tablespoons
Golden syrup – 200g
Black treacle or molasses – 200g
Ground cloves – ¼ teaspoon
Ground cinnamon – ¼ teaspoon
Ground ginger – 1 teaspoon
Bicarbonate of soda – 2 teaspoon
Warm water – 2 tablespoons
Eggs – 2
Milk – 250ml
Plain flour – 275g
Cocoa – 40g
Chocolate chips – 175g
Icing sugar – 250g
Butter – 30g
Cocoa – 1 tablespoon
Ginger ale or ginger beer – 60g
Preheat the oven to 170°C. Line the bottom and sides of a roasting tin (approximately 30 x 20 x 5cm deep) with a big sheet of greaseproof paper.
Use a large saucepan to melt the butter, sugars, golden syrup, treacle or molasses, cloves, cinnamon and ground ginger. Put the bicarbonate of soda and water in a cup and stir until it is dissolved. Take the saucepan off the heat, allow to cool for a couple of minutes, then beat in the eggs, milk and bicarbonate and water mixture. Stir in the flour and cocoa and beat with a wooden spoon. Fold in the chocolate chips. Pour into the tin and bake in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes until well risen and firm. It will be slightly damp in the centre but that’s not a bad thing.
Place on a wire rack and let cool in the tin.
Sieve the icing sugar. In a heavy-based saucepan, heat the butter, cocoa and ginger ale. As soon as the butter is melted, whisk in the icing sugar.
Lift the cooled chocolate gingerbread out of the tin and take the paper off it. Pour over the icing to cover the top and cut into chunks when set.
Adapted from Feast by Nigella Lawson.