“Muffins” are, if we are honest enough to admit it, simply an excuse to eat cake for breakfast. Or at least they are nowadays. Once upon a time, in a land far, far, away – by which I mean when I was growing up in the north of England - a muffin was what we now are forced to refer to as an “English” muffin. The distinction is now necessary to avoid confusion with the modern usurper of the name – the cup-cakey, dare I say, “American,” version. The “original” muffin was made from a yeast-leavened batter on a hot griddle, and commonly served split and toasted. With butter of course.
A similar situation exists with Banana Bread, Gingerbread, Coconut Loaf, Date Loaf and other similarly named baked goods. The names of these breakfast and tea-time staples comes from their bread-like shape of course, and they do lend an air of plain respectability to the items, making us feel less greedy and indulgent about eating cake yet again. Do you agree?
Some time ago, I gave you a recipe for “real” coconut (cocoa-nut) bread from Eliza Acton’s marvelous work The English bread-book for domestic use (1857.) This is a yeast-risen bread whose sweetness derives solely from the included grated fresh coconut (cooked in milk.) In the same story was a World War 1 recipe for “real” carrot bread – again, leavened with yeast, and with no added sugar.
I am returning to the theme today, with another recipe from Acton’s The English bread-book for domestic use. This time, it is a variation on a basic bread, not cake, recipe, with ginger flavouring. I have not tried this myself, but intend to very soon. Let me know if you make it too!
Ginger Loaf, or Rolls.
Mix intimately two ounces of good powdered ginger,—called in the shops prepared ginger,— and a little salt, with two pounds of flour, and make it into a firm but perfectly light dough with German or brewers' yeast, in the usual manner. Bake it either in one loaf, or divide it into six or eight small ones.
Flour, 2lbs.; prepared ginger, 2oz.; little salt; German yeast, ½ oz. , or fresh brewers' yeast 1 large dessert-spoonful; milk, or milk and water, 1 pint: to rise one hour or until quite light: to be kneaded down and left again to rise until light.
Remark. — When diarrhoea or other complaints of a similar nature are prevalent, this bread will be found of excellent effect, especially in travelling; far better, indeed, than many of the compounds to which people have recourse to avert disturbance of the system. The proportion of ginger can be much increased if desired; but the bread should not then be habitually eaten for a long continuance, as the excess of any stimulating condiment is often in many ways injurious. Rather less than the pint of milk will often prove sufficient.
Finally, I offer you an alternative idea which is a compromise of sorts: a type of soda-bread with about 4 ounces (114 gm) of sugary stuff to a pound (454 gm) of flour.
Ginger Treacle Bread.
You require 1 lb. flour, 3 oz. butter, 2 oz. sugar, 2 tablespoonfuls treacle, 1 teaspoonful (level) baking soda, a pinch of salt, 1 teaspoonful ground ginger, buttermilk or milk and water to mix. Sieve all dry ingredients together and rub in butter. Mix treacle and milk together by slightly warming, and stir into the dry ingredients to make a medium dough. If you have not buttermilk, a mixture of milk and water is good to mix. Form into round loaves about two inches thick or put into greased bread tins. Bake in moderately hot oven about thirty minutes till brown and firm. – Kathleen O’Leary, ad 10, Castelnau Gardens, London, S.W. 13.
"Readers' Recipes." Sunday Times [London, England] 21 May 1939