Monday, November 23, 2020

Abraham Lincoln's Favorite Dessert: Gingerbread with an Apple and Brown Sugar Topping..

Lincoln was extraordinarily fond of gingerbread. A plain man with tastes to match, Lincoln once said, "I don't s'pose anybody on earth likes gingerbread better'n I do—and gets less'n I do.
This is the kitchen Mary Todd Lincoln cooked and baked for the man who later became President of the United States. Their modest home at Eighth and Jackson Streets in Springfield, Illinois, is a National Historic Site. The Lincolns lived here from 1844 until 1861.

This was in the days before the package mix. Otherwise, Mrs. Lincoln surely would have catered more closely to her husband's food likes. And here is one of the best possible dress-ups for it, a buttery brown sugar and apple topping particularly compatible with the spicy goodness of gingerbread warm from the oven.

If it's for company, or even if it isn't, a puff of whipped cream makes it even better.

  • Take two pounds and a half of flour
  • Mix an ounce of beaten ginger with it, and half a pound of brown sugar
  • Cut three-quarters of a pound of orange peel and citron (a citrus fruit) not too small
  • One ounce of Carraway seeds
  • Mix all these together
  • Take a mutchkin and a half (a Scottish unit of capacity equal to a little less than a pint or 14.5oz) of good treacle (treacle and molasses may both be by-products of the sugar refining process, but they are not as interchangeable as many believe) 21.75oz of treacle, and melt it on the fire.
  • Beat five large eggs
  • Wet the flour with the treacle and eggs
  • Weight half a pound of fresh butter, "Scots weight" (8 ounces)
  • Melt it and pour it in amongst your other materials
  • Cast them all well together
  • Butter a frame and put it in the oven. (NOTE: There is no oven temperature given because they used wood to bake and cook.) All these cakes must be fired in an oven, neither too hot nor too cold. 
  • This gingerbread won't fire without frames. (not important in today's ovens)
  • If it rises in blisters when it is in the oven, run a fork through it. 
  • It makes very fine plain bread without the fruit, with a few caraway seeds.
  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 4 medium apples, sliced very thin
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
Combine brown sugar, butter, and milk in a saucepan. Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves, then add apple slices and simmer just until tender. Spoon out the apple slices and arrange on baked gingerbread. Combine cornstarch and cold water and stir into syrup in which apples were cooked. Stir over low heat until thickened, then pour over apples and gingerbread. Serve with whipped cream if you like.

Research by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

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