Food & Drink: Perfect gingerbread

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The Independent Online
The series of reader recipes for cooking with ginger begins next week. This week, however, I take the liberty of offering a gingerbread recipe of my own. Perfecting it became something of a passion during the past year. It was meant to make millions in the bakery of my dreams. I hope, at least, it might be of use to you over the holidays.

Originally inspired by Martha Rose Shulman's wonderful Bread Book (Macmillan, pounds 16.95), it is closer to a bread than a cake. The use of syrup instead of dried ginger makes it more aromatic than hot and harsh.


Serves 8

Ingredients: For the syrup: knob of fresh ginger the size of a thumb and finger

4fl oz (115ml) whisky

4fl oz (115ml) water

4oz (115g) brown sugar

For the batter: 3 eggs, separated

2 heaped tbs treacle

4oz (115g) dark brown sugar

3oz (85.5g) butter, melted

grated zest of 1 lemon

4oz (115g) wholewheat flour

4oz (115g) white cake flour

2tbs ginger syrup

1 level tsp finely chopped stewed ginger

1tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp allspice

good pinch or two of freshly grated nutmeg

pinch salt

1 level tsp baking soda

4oz (115g) yoghurt

slice of lemon

1tbs castor sugar

Preparation: Peel ginger, chop into relatively big chunks. Combine sugar, whisky and water in saucepan and bring to a boil. Add ginger, and simmer in a covered pan until ginger is tender - about 45 minutes. Use a heat diffuser, or check periodically that the syrup is not reducing too quickly. If it is, add water. Once cooked, cool it a little and finely mince the ginger with a cleaver. What syrup and ginger you do not use, allow to cool, then store in a screw-top jar. It is ideal for spicing Chinese stir-fries.

Preheat oven to 350F/180C/gas 4. Butter and lightly flour a medium-sized bread tin.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together flours, dried spices, salt and baking soda, tipping any remaining bran back into the mix and stirring it in. In a medium-sized bowl, beat the brown sugar into the egg yolks then, ensuring the butter is not too hot, add ginger syrup, ginger, treacle and lemon zest.

Add butter-egg mixture to flour and mix well, then add yoghurt. Rub another bowl with lemon, add egg whites and whisk. As they begin to foam, add 1tbs castor sugar. Whisk until they are stiff, then gently fold into the batter. Using a spatula, decant mix into baking tin, smooth top and bake for 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out cleanly.

Next week, your ginger recipes. Address them to: Emily Green, Recipe, Weekend Features, The Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL. Those whose recipes we print will receive a bottle of 1975 McDuff malt whisky.