Tags: Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer, ginger biscuits, Jane Brocket
Yesterday’s reference to Five on Kirrin Island Again gave me the urge to bake a version of Joanna the Cook’s famous ginger biscuits. Joanna knows how to use food to make people happy and cheer them up when they’re sad. When poor George is forced to let her beloved dog Timmy stay on Kirrin Island with Uncle Quentin (he needs a bodyguard to protect him while he conducts top secret scientific experiments), Joanna directs the children towards the biscuit tin. “I made you some of your favourite ginger biscuits this morning”, she tells them, much to Dick’s delight:
‘”I do think good cooks deserve some kind of decoration, just as much as good soldiers, or scientists, or writers. I should give Joanna the O.B.C.B.E”.
“Whatever’s that?” said Julian.
“Order of the Best Cooks of the British Empire,” said Dick, grinning.’
As I’m off to visit Anne later (companion on such infamous adventures as Peter’s Tower in 2010 and last summer’s wet and rainy trip to the Blytonian equivalent of Mecca, Corfe Castle) I thought I would make her a batch of ginger biscuits [Anne – if you’re reading this, surprise! And I hope you like ginger…].
I won’t post the recipe for these up here as it comes courtesy of Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer, Jane Brocket‘s excellent compendium of recipes based on food in children’s books. I’ve made several of JB’s recipes (Battenberg cake, saffron cake, pineapple upside down cake) and I have to say that they are a) delicious and b) have worked every time. Although having said that, mine look a bit pale, cracked and ugly. And they did take a little longer in the oven than JB recommends. But they taste good and that’s the most important thing, right?!
Tags: Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer, Feast, Five Go Adventuring Again, ginger bus, hot milk, Jane Brocket, Kirrin Farm, Mrs Sanders, Nigella Lawson, secret passages
After a morning spent hunting for secret passages at Kirrin Farm (as you do), the kindly Mrs Sanders brings out some delicious elevenses, much to the delight of the Five, and sits ‘them down in the big kitchen to eat ginger buns and drink hot milk’ (Five Go Adventuring Again).
A cold winter’s morning offers the perfect excuse to stay in your pyjamas and do a spot of baking, especially if you are making something that permeates the air with a gentle waft of warm spices. The Enid Blyton Society have had some discussion about the exact nature of the Blytonian ginger bun – are they bread or cake-like? Fruity or not fruity? Even Jane Brocket, domestic doyenne, doesn’t discuss this in her anthology of recipes from children’s literature, Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer.
I have plumped for a non-fruity cake-like version and after much searching for suitable recipes have decided that Nigella Lawson’s gingerbread muffins could easily double up as Mrs Sanders’ ginger buns. They are not especially muffin-like and are dark and subtle in flavour (I have added a little more ginger to the original recipe). Most of the ingredients would have been available to Mrs Sanders, perhaps with the substitution of the balsamic vinegar for some of her homemade cider or other fruit vinegar.
The Nigellan ethos of feasting and plenty is certainly akin to the Blytonian one and I now can’t stop imagining a bizarre alternate Famous Five world in which Mrs Sanders becomes a seductive satin dressing gown-wearing Nigella, with Charles Saatchi as her art collecting farmer husband. As we know, the Sanders let out rooms to artists from London so perhaps there’s some mileage here? Anyway, here is the recipe for Mrs Sanders’ Ginger Buns, adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Feast.
Makes 12 buns
250g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
3 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground mixed spice or ground cloves
50g dark muscovado sugar
50g light muscovado sugar
150ml full-fat milk (fresh from the Kirrin cows if possible)
1/4 tsp balsamic vinegar
6 tbs sunflower oil
4 tbs golden syrup
4 tbs black treacle
Whisk up the egg and sugar, then add the milk, vinegar and oil and then the syrup and treacle. Combine the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and spices and then add the sugary milk/oil/egg/vinegar mixture. Stir until combined but still fairly lumpy (as with usual muffin mixtures – but more runny in this case).
Line your muffin tin with large bun cases or circles of greaseproof paper and bake for 15-20 mins at 200°c/gas mark 6 (Nigella says 20 mins but as usual with her recipes I would cook for less – it depends on your oven). The tops will be dry but the buns will still feel squishy when you take them out of the tin. Leave to cool slightly on a wire rack then serve with large glasses of hot milk.
NB The buns will keep nicely for a couple of days in an airtight tin.