Sunday 21 June 2015

Grantham Gingerbread Biscuits - A Father's Day Guest Post from Dad

I call this a "guest post" although it's still me writing - it's my dad who did the baking, took the photos and gave me the details.  It all started with my aunt Carolyn (dad's sister) giving me a challenge ... to make a batch of our namesake cookies. Here's a brief history of this delicious gem from the town of Grantham, England (Wikipedia):

The town is known for Gingerbread biscuits which were first made in 1740 by William Eggleston. Eggleston, a baker by trade, was a producer of a biscuit called Grantham Whetstones. Whetsones were a rusk like dry biscuit enjoyed locally and also by coach drivers who used to stop in Grantham to change their horses whilst travelling on the Great North road. According to folklore, Egglestone, whilst baking whetsones' in his dimly lit kitchen one morning, mistook one ingredient for another, resulting in a ginger like biscuit to emerge from the oven. The mistake was a huge success and the biscuit became established as Grantham Gingerbread.

Grantham Gingerbread is known as a white gingerbread because it is not made with molasses or black treacle. Because of this is it has a delicate gingery flavour, rich in butter with a domed shaped top that has a crackled surface. The centre of a Grantham Gingerbread biscuit is hollow and resembles a honeycombe appearance.


After a lengthy review of many, many recipes I came up with a recipe that seemed to combine the best of them all.  I failed miserably.  I actually had a picture of my failure at one point, but I can't seem to locate it.  It was a picture of the baked cookies almost as one big cookie - they had spread out to the point that they were one big mess! So I asked my dad to give it a go.  And here is how it all came down ...

He started with this recipe which I've replicated below - BUT, there was a big problem with one of the ingredients!  So he fixed that and made a few other modifications.

I'll start with the problem.  The ingredients call for 250 grams of self raising flour (being in North America, I often have to be reminded how to convert this ... the common advice is to add 2 tsp baking powder for each cup of flour).  The conversion noted in brackets in the original recipe is totally wrong - 250 grams is about 1 cup, not two cups!  So he used 2 cups flour (plus 2 tsp baking powder so kind of a combination of the two).

And he clearly used fresh ginger (a nice touch!).

For those that don't keep caster sugar on hand, a great tip from dad is to take regular sugar and give it a whiz in a (clean) coffee grinder.  Caster sugar is really just a superfine texture of regular sugar (sometimes called fruit sugar).

So aside from the adjustments, here's the original recipe.  My version spread too much and didn't look right, but they were DELICIOUS!


250 g (9 oz or 2 cups) self raising flour  
1½ tsp ground ginger
115 g (4 oz or 1/2 cup) butter or baking margarine (softened)  
340 g (12 oz or 1 2/3 cups) caster sugar  
1 egg, lightly beaten


Grantham Gingerbread Recipe

Preheat the oven to 300°.  
Sift flour into a bowl and set aside.
In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar together.
Add the egg to the butter-sugar mix about a third at a time, mixing in well.  Grate in fresh ginger (or add ground ginger to the flour).
Add the flour to the rest of the mix a bit at a time.  Stir in.  The mixture will get quite stiff.
Roll dough into balls about the size of a walnut (two tablespoons) and place on baking sheet.
Bake in the centre of the oven for 40-45 minutes.  Cookies will naturally flatten during baking.


  1. Sounds tasty, the ginger flavor in a butter cookie, without the heaviness of spices and molasses. BTW, self rising flour is a commodity in the southern US, used for baking biscuits. It is usually made with a very soft flour with minimal gluten so biscuits are tender. And we can find "superfine" sugar, very finely ground granulated sugar used in drinks and desserts.

    1. That's it! The gingery goodness in a light buttery cookie!! Very awesome. So you can get self rising flour and superfine sugar and I can't? What the heck. I suppose I can find it if I look hard enough but it certainly isn't common ...

  2. Sounds delicious - I am definitely going to give these a try!

    And we can get self rising flour here - I purchase a brand called Brodie and it is usually in a 1kg package in the regular flour aisle. Not all stores carry it, but I am usually able to find it at one of the Loblaw affiliates (Fortino's or Zehrs). Actually just looked it up and Wal-Mart (in Canada) apparently sells it too -

    1. Is it also the same as pastry flour? Any other place than Wal-Mart though? I don't shop Wal-Mart for reasons that you can read about elsewhere.

    2. Nope. Pastry flour is more like all-purpose flour with cornstarch added. Self-rising is really just a way to add baking powder to the recipe as its already mixed into the flour. I really haven't seen it too often myself but will let you know if I find any elsewhere - I know what you mean about Wal-Mart. :)