1824 English Gingerbread 18th Century Cooking with Jas Townsend and Son S5E18
25 Comments


In this episode, I’m taking a step into
the future. Well, not really so much the future. Normally we focus on the 18th century. In
this episode, we’re going to be doing an early 19th century recipe. The recipe I’m
making today is from John Cook’s 1824 cookbook, Cooking and Confectionary. This is what’s
called a light gingerbread. I’ll explain in a minute exactly why this is so special.
Thanks for joining us today on 18th Century Cooking with James Townsend and Son. Today’s episode is the final companion piece
to our exploring the 18th Century discussion where we talk about chemical leavening. So
while this recipe that we’re doing today is actually a fairly simple, common sort of
gingerbread, one of the interesting things is, it uses alum as one of the leavening agents,
so in our “Exploring the 18th Century Chemical Leavening” series, we talked about bread
adulterants in the mid-18th century and how there was great alarm at the bakers using
alum in their bread and yet here we have an early 19th century recipe that’s using alum
as a leavening agent. The original recipe is rather large, so I’ve
downsized this considerably. We’re going to start with 2 cups of flour. To this, I’ll
stir in 2 teaspoons of powdered ginger. Next, I’ll add 1 cup of light or Barbados molasses.
Warming this first will make it easier to mix into the flour. Now for our wet ingredients, I’ll take a
few tablespoons of milk divided evenly. In half of this milk, I’ll dissolve ¾ of a
teaspoon of pearl ash. In the other half, I’ll dissolve 1 teaspoon of alum. Pearl
ash can be very difficult to find, so James Townsend and Son now carries food grade pearl
ash in 2 ounce bottles. You can substitute it with baking soda, but baking soda was a
mid-19th century invention. Alum can be found in the spice section in your local grocer.
If you would prefer not to use alum, you can use a couple tablespoons of vinegar instead.
Now I’ll stir this in very well. The result is a very sticky batter. I’m going to bake this in a tart tin that
has been well buttered. If you’re baking this at home, you’ll want to preheat your
oven and bake this at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. We’ve got to give this a try. Mmm. Very wonderful, very fluffy. It’s got
a great gingerbread taste with the mix between the ginger and the molasses. This is an excellent,
very interesting, almost like a ginger cake. Very moist though. This is really something
special. If you haven’t watched our “Exploring
the 18th Century” Series on chemical leavening, I really invite you to do so. It really helps
tease out and get to the roots of chemical leavening all throughout the 18th and 19th
century. If you’re new to our YouTube channel, I
really want to welcome you, and don’t forget to subscribe by pressing this button right
up here. If you‘d like to visit our website, this link will take you here, and if you’d
like to request a print catalog, this link will take you to that spot. We also have related
video links right down here. Just click on them, it’ll take you right to the video.
Thank you so much for watching.

25 thoughts on “1824 English Gingerbread 18th Century Cooking with Jas Townsend and Son S5E18

  1. That looks lovely. I actually grew-up in "Market Drayton" in Shropshire: "The Home" of gingerbread (according to the people there!) 

    Are you able to give any kind of comparison between pearl-ash and acid vs baking powder or modern leavening? Also, can you post overseas? 
    [Edit, Saw your website, so for anyone else wondering, yes they do]

  2. Loving your amazing production of movies and all the Wonderful Series.
    Wondering if you have a series on 18Century Medical plants / techniques used.
    Cheers 😉

  3. Oh, dear lord, that looks incredibly delicious! Perfectly presented, lads. Thank you for including the alternative ingredients in the recipe.

    I'm still looking for flour substitutes. Had some luck with fermenting sprouted rolled oats in yogurt and/or using crushed quinoa flakes so far. Wondering whether 18th century people used soaked, sprouted, or fermented grains to cook with or just used dry. Whether they believed nutrients/assimilation were improved by that sort of grain/seed preparation. Thank you for every word.

  4. The kitchen looks to be of Cob construction and is exactly like the home I hope to build over the next two years. Is this a separate building or part of an entire cob home? 

  5. First of all, I want to thank you for your tireless efforts to share your videos with us. I have learned so much from them. I look forward to trying many of the recipes you have shown us. Like many of your videos, I get hungry just watching. I am not a fan of gingerbread, but I really want to try this recipe. Thanks again!

  6. I made yesterday and it was so good it's GONE! I'm making another one today with a slight twist.  I added about a third of a cup of raisins that have been plumped up with rum.

  7. I'm so hooked on your show! It's like watching PBS. Love the music too. Thanks guys for such high quality entertainment.

  8. Making this up tonight. As I was mixing it I started to wonder why vinegar does not seem to be used as part of the early chemical leavening mixes and how much the acid in molasses contributes to the fluffiness.

  9. Jon, I love to see what you set around the room for each video. It always varies. I see your reflector oven on the table. Why don't you do an actual comparison of say coking your gingerbread using that oven vs your enclosed oven. I would like to see you actually preparing the fire in the oven and testing the heat, too. I think that would lend more authenticity to your demonstration.

  10. I remember watching Saturday morning cartoons and one character would dump alum into another character's mouth and his mouth would pucker up and he couldn't talk

  11. My statement is no reflection on Townsends. You folks are top drawer to me. I wouldn't use alum even if you paid me. Alum being short for aluminum. Even if not pure aluminum I just don't want it in my diet. Easy to substitute out.

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