Initial plans for today (made in last weeks sun) were for a picnic at Kirby Hall. Then the rain started and it no longer seemed like a very good idea, but I wasn't going to be done out of the promised treat of a mornings intensive baking - I woke up at half past seven and couldn't stay in bed any longer thanks to the excitement of trying a new recipe, and if that sounds like I need to get out more than bear with me. I've cut down on the baking recently partly in an effort to save money, and partly to eat less cake, which is all good - but I do miss making things and any excuse is welcomed, so before the blonde picked me up today I made spinach and feta parcels, scones, jam tarts, and Queens's Gingerbread...
The Queen's Gingerbread came from Dan Lepard's column in The Guardian, I'm almost annoyed with myself for making this my Jubilee bake because although Dan Lepard is excellent I feel our relationship is becoming a bit exclusive and there are still so many other cookbooks to flirt with (really I do get out of the house sometimes). On the other hand Queen's Gingerbread is egg free (good for L who is severally allergic), highly spiced with flavours that give more than a nod to the first Elizabethan age, and was quite unlike anything else I've baked before. It was also quite quick and easy, goes down a treat with tea, and made a huge amount that's perfect for sharing around.
After a picnic in the comfort of L's dining room we went to the Astley Book Farm and although both the blond and I were sure we knew the way we managed to miss not one, but two, junctions on the motorway (I blame the rain which made for appalling visibility...) when we finally managed to send ourselves southbound again it was only to go twice round a roundabout before eventually still taking a wrong turn - the back streets of Bedworth on a rainy Sunday are not precisely the spot I'd choose to find myself in. Fortunately L clearly had an accurate (if unflattering) opinion about our ability to get from A to B and had bought a sat nav, ten minutes later we were parked up had managed to stop laughing hysterically, and saw the SALE sign.
The book farm provided bunting, a marquee that smelt of slightly damp canvas and grass, and a very enjoyable conversation about Dorothy Whipple with the owners - I don't think I could have had a better day.
Gingerbread recipe - I fiddled with this just a bit to fit what I had and take into account that none of us are mad about ginger (and I could still have used less)...
450g plain flour
5tsp ground ginger
2tsp ground nutmeg
a pinch of cloves
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
250g of castor sugar
150g of melted butter
150g each of runny honey and black treacle
75g each of mixed peel, dried apricots, and dates blitzed until well chopped
A good handful of flaked almonds
Line the base of a 20 cm square baking tin with greaseproof paper and set oven to 180 degrees/gas 5. Gently melt the butter, remove from heat and add the sugar, treacle, and honey - mix well.
Throw the flour, spices, and bicarb into a bowl making sure they're lump free, stir in the treacle mix and dried fruits until a nice stiff dough is formed. Press this down into the baking tin making sure it's nice and level then press in the almonds. Bake for 25 mins until it's all evenly puffed up, remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin before cutting up.