May 25, 2020

The Berry Project: Traditional Parkin

Eggs, flour and syrup laid out of work bench

As I was flicking through Mary Berry’s Baking Bible this week, trying to decide what to tackle next, I stumbled across a Traditional Parkin recipe. It caught my eye at once because I’d never heard of parkin, yet along eaten it, until this page fell open on my kitchen counter. (Apologies to any Northerners reading this – I’ve since found out that it’s a very well-loved bake that is traditionally eaten around bonfire night in place of sticky toffee-apples and is generally spoken about with much affection – it seems to be something a grandparent might make and so has a certain kind of nostalgia – a bit like custard or jam tarts.)

Not knowing what this should look or taste like, led to quite a suspenseful first bake of the week. According to Mary Berry, this is an old-fashioned parkin as it uses black treacle and appears to improve with keeping. Unlike the All-in-one Victoria Sponge, there’s no picture to accompany this bake, which made the whole experience quite an adventure – a bit how I imagine the technical challenge would be like on the Great British Bake Off (without the horrendous stress and time-pressure). Looking at the ingredients list which includes: black treacle, butter, dark muscovado sugar, plain flour, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, porridge oats, egg, milk and bicarbonate of soda – it reminded me a little of gingerbread. The spices definitely reminded me of Christmas – they are all pretty synonymous with warmth and the aroma wafting from the mixing bowl was certainly very comforting. I also learnt that ginger is a natural preservative, meaning your bake will keep for longer.

What was apparent from mixing all the ingredients together, was firstly how much sugar (!) is in this recipe and secondly, how very dense and rough the mixture was. At first I was a bit worried about this but when researching about the history of this bake, it would appear it is a fairly dense cake that gets softer, stickier and more flavoursome over the course of a few days or a week.

All in all, I’d say this bake went fairly smoothly, apart from the fact that I don’t own an 18cm deep square cake tin and so had to make do with a small casserole dish which I think, from looking at pictures online, has meant my parkin is thicker than the traditional version. As for the taste, I’ll have to report back next week as Mary suggests storing it for a week before cutting into it so I’ll have to let you know how it turns out. From what I’ve gathered it’s best served with a cup of tea in front of a fire – and of course next week in Scotland they forecast a heat-wave… typical isn’t it?!

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