Cook: “Ripon Parkins for November the Fifth” The Original
Mr Herbert M. Bower’s recipe
Preparation Time 20 mins
To Bake in Slow Oven 1 and a half hours
Medium oatmeal 3/4 lb
Flour ¾ lb (I used organic rye stoneground flour)
Butter 2 oz (I used President – a little French twist for Mrs White)
Lard 2 oz
Brown sugar 1/4lb
Milk 2 tbsp
Bicarbonate of soda 1 tsp
Ground ginger 1 tbsp
To bake in slow oven 1 1/2 hrs
In Good Things In England Mrs Florence White spends an entire chapter on conversions. Cups were a new introduction to Britain and had all sorts of interpretations. A teasponful or tablespoonful, unlike today, meant just that – pile high your spoon and tip it in! None of this ‘level’ business (maybe that came with the frugality measures imposed by the desperation of the Second World War?). A spoonful was indeed a cook’s wooden spoon piled high with the requisite ingredient.
Mrs White suggests referring to the nine pages on weights and measures in Whitaker’s Almanack of the period.
I’ll dig some excerpts out for you in future recipes. To think I thought Florence White’s few pages on the (rather dry) subject were impressive!
What do we need to know for this recipe?.
Mrs White had an American Cup measure which she notes, when filled to the top, contained exactly half a pint or 10 fluid ounces English measure. Though if in America, it holds 8 fluid ounces American measure.
The pounds and ounces used in these recipes are avoirdupois measures, which are still fairly standard today.
- 2 oz is 57gm
- 1lb is 454gm
- 3/4lb is 341gm
- 1/4lb is 113gm
- 2 tbsp means 2 gravy spoons or cooks spoons full (1 gravy spoonful=2 English dessertspoonfuls)
- 1 teaspoonful is one fluid dram or 60 drops – a dram is an avoirdupois measure weighing almost 2 grams. This is smaller than the tsp in your modern measuring kit, which equals 5ml or grams.
The paper test for oven heat: a sheet of white paper placed in a slow oven should take 7 minutes to turn golden brown. I love the precision of this. Nothing arbitrary at all – how golden is your golden brown? In my oven, to my golden, the answer was 145 deg.
There are, according to the collection of Parkins recipes in Good Things In England, several variations in the method. Many are like Anzac Biscuits or Flapjacks, where the syrup and butter are melted together in a saucepan, then bicarbonate of soda added til the mixture expands into a gorgeously seething mass of golden froth, then the dry ingredients stirred in until its combined.
Mr. Bower instead does the following:
- Rub the lard and butter into the flour.
- Blend the flour, oatmeal, finer and sugar all together
- Melt the treacle and mix that in
- Finally, dissolve the soda in the milk and add that.
- Mix well, bake in a dripping tin and cook in a slow oven.
- When done cut into squares; or the parkin may be rolled out and cut into rounds.
As is often the case with these kinds of slices, it is best cut when still warm. I left it in the pan to cool for 5 minutes, then turned it out.
The resulting biscuit was firm and deep. It was very sweet, with that wonderful treacly sharp edge and a sweet stickiness, without being cloying at all. It travels well, is just as good, if not better, after well over a week in the biscuit tin.
It will wrap up in foil and travel to the bonfire-side very comfortably, without even a crumb I should think… a treat our friends can all look forward to next week, while our family goes for the gluten free Ripons which you can find here.