Bessie Pearl Davies, her Brother, Herb Truscott, my Grandpa & Grandma, Kyran & Phyllis,
at their house in Scarborough, WA
OK, I admit it... Great-Grandma Bessie Pearl Davies, I didn't follow your ingredients as you wrote them. And your recipe turned out better than mine. I will follow you religiously from now on. Then, and only then, will I start 'being creative' with my own touch.
I cannot bake. I am scared of dough, and rolling pins and pastry. The oven is like a black hole where my love of cooking and food is sucked away. And, of course, Bessie Pearl's Ledger, is chock-FULL of cakes & biscuits (or, cookies for my American friends!). They all sound DElicious, and I am paranoid of them all. (Wedding Cake? Are you serious??)
I attempted ginger biscuits (cookies) the other night. My husband, who is amazing at baking (I nearly DIE at Thanksgiving and the pecans come home, the pastry gets rolled and he puts that Pecan Pie of his in the oven. I could very seriously eat the whole thing) had been baking cookies ALL day to send out as Christmas treats. I wanted to contribute, felt I should bake cookies too (never mind that I had just hand-stitched tree ornaments three nights in a row...). How HARD could gingerbread men be? Well, I will start by saying that Bessie Pearl NEVER wrote any instructions for most of her recipes. They are simply lists of ingredients. This one, Ginger Biscuits, simply said, "Roll out and Bake".
Firstly, HOW? The dough was so crumbly, I could hardly mush it together (maybe I need a mixer for these projects???!). Should I add more butter, or more molasses? Water? What about an egg? There was none mentioned in the recipe, but SURELY Bessie Pearl had made an error in transcription?? I rolled out one little gingerbread fella, and set him aside. Then added an egg to the mix. This is of course after my paranoia annoying itself on my husband - me shoving the mixing bowl in his face, demanding in a whine, "What's wrong with this?". He told me I could add an egg, that it wouldn't do any harm, that all his cookies had eggs. I didn't know what to do. I enlisted the help of "The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook", whose ginger cookies ALSO had an egg. I strayed, Bessie Pearl, I cracked an egg in there.
They turned out surprisingly good. Like gingerBREAD men, soft and chewy, lovely and ginger-y, a perfect dark molasses-y hue. But they weren't crisp, buttery and zingy like the first guy was. He crisped apart one arm, one leg and one head at a time. We took turns in biting off his appendages and savouring the experience. He was the best gingerbread man I made. Thanks Bessie Pearl, for a great recipe. NEXT time, I will be more patient with the dough, knead it a little more, add some more butter (thanks Mum!), and make a batch of wonderfully crisp and crunchy ginger-biscuit-men!
Of course, if you like the BREAD-like ginger men. Use an egg...
nb. my notes are in itallics
1 ½ lb plain flour (6 cups)
½ lb sugar (1 cup)
½ lb dripping (2 sticks of butter is just fine, thanks!)
1 tspn bi-carbonate (baking) soda
1 Tbsp ground ginger (I also added fresh ginger)
1 tspn mixed spice
A little Nutmeg
1 cup of treacle (golden syrup, molasses or honey can be used)
(1 egg, if you want)
~ Roll out and bake in moderate oven
~ (Oven at 375 degrees fahrenheit, bake for 5 mins)
Makes a LOT of cookies, I halved the recipe.