In search of something quick and festive, I made this recipe at my mom’s house, in between walks with the dogs. UPenn MS Codex 895 is signed “Ann M. Plowden, 1756” on the inside front cover; a page later in the book is dated 1844, and the whole thing is written in at least four hands. This is the first time we’ve cooked from this particular recipe book, and I look forward to returning to it.
We didn’t have candied peel or fresh ginger or mace, so I used orange zest and ground ginger and some cinnamon and cloves; I’m not sure that its texture was what it should have been, or whether this should have been baked as a large cake, or rolled out, or in small patted rounds as I made them. But I liked these very much regardless–gingerbread is forgiving! (*Note: thanks very much to our reader who pointed out that I misread/miscalculated and used only 2 tbsp. molasses rather than 3/4 c. Oops! I did in fact enjoy these very much despite that mistake. However, with the proper amount of molasses, these might work better as rolled out cookies. I will be making them again and will provide an update!)
To make Newport Ginger Bread
Take a p[oun]d of flour a quarter of a p[oun]d of sugar 2 ounce
of candied orange peel or Lemon a little mace
the weight of a two shilling of grated white ginger
half a pint of melted butter 4 spoonful of brandy
a p[oun]d or something better of treacle mix it well
& bake it on wafer paper on tin pans in a quick oven
[halved from the original]
1 2/3 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1 oz. orange peel
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 stick butter, melted
2 tbsp. brandy
3/4 c. molasses
Heat oven to 375F.
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until fully incorporated. Form the gingerbread as you’d like. For small cookies, bake ~20 mins., until a deeper golden brown and dry to the touch. Cool on a wire rack. This made 20 small cookies.
These are certainly ginger-y! The brandy is a tasty addition that I hadn’t encountered in gingerbread before. They’re dense and a little chewy, and have plenty of flavor. From the instruction to bake it on paper, I was expecting a cake that would bake on parchment in order to turn out more easily. This was more of a dough than a batter, though, and a crumbly one at that (because of my molasses mishap). I settled on patting them into flattened golf-ball-sized rounds, but I will try rolling it out next (with more molasses).
When I’m not distracted by a pug wearing a jinglebell collar and the need to finish wrapping gifts, I might look into why these are “Newport” gingerbread. For now, they taste of ginger and the kitchen smelled festive and warm while they baked. That’s a good Christmas Eve eve cookie.
Happy and peaceful holidays to you.