Yes, I promised you that gingerbread recipe. I haven't decided if I really like it or not. It comes from Miss Beecher's Domestic Receipt-Book, by Catharine E. Beecher, first published in 1858. If you want to know what they might have dined on during the Civil War decade, this is a pretty good representation.
Sugar Gingerbread (plainer)
Two cups of sugar.
One cup of butter, rubbed with the sugar.
One cup of milk.
One teaspoonful of pearlash in hot water.**will explain in a minute
Three tablespoonfuls of ginger. (oh yes, that is correct, hope you like ginger)
Five cups of flour.
Make it a soft dough, and add more flour if needed.
Pearlash was a historic leavening, later to be replaced by the likes of sodium bicarbonate or baking soda, and baking powder. You can replace it with 1/4 t. of baking soda for each cup of flour (so a slightly rounded teaspoon should suffice here).
There is no baking directions, as it would be with a wood stove and oven and you would have to judge what temperature and how long by how you knew your stove ran. I baked mine for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven, as that's what other conventional quick breads run at then tested it to see if it was done. The dough was slightly pourable, maybe a little less pourable than other cakes, but I think I was overzealous with the flour.
My cake turned out a very golden brown. Without molasses or other spices, it is about the actual color of powdered ginger. It is very sweet and not hot like ginger can get.
A very cool thing I found while trying to figure out the modern equivalent of pearlash was finding that someone still sold pearlash and saleratus (an early forerunner of baking soda). Check out this place.
Good luck with trying a recipe from the past....
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