An anti-miserabilist approach to historical cooking

Parkin: Attempt No. 2

Parkin, recipe from 1926

Having struggled with the last parkin recipe that I tried, but with most of a jar of treacle still to use up I have had another go. Parkin No. 2 was more successful, in that it was at least edible, but still a far cry from the pictures of soft, moist, cake-y parkin that accompany modern recipes.

What is interesting is the way that parkin has evolved in the nearly 100 years between the recipe from 1830 (the earliest one that has been found so far, and very similar to the one from 1867 that I made last week) and this recipe from 1926.

“Parkin. Half a pound of fine oatmeal, half a pound of flour, 6oz. of butter or dripping, quarter of a pound of brown sugar, half a pound of treacle, half an ounce of ground ginger, the grated rind of a lemon, a quarter of a teaspoonful of powdered cloves, one teaspoonful of bicarbonate of soda, one teaspoonful of alt. Mix together the oatmeal, flour, salt, ginger, cloves, lemon rind and soda. Melt the treacle, butter, and sugar together in a saucepan until thoroughly dissolved. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, and into this pour the hot liquid. Beat the whole together well. Turn the mixture into a shallow baking tin, and bake in a slow oven for one hour.”[1]

By Spider.Dog (http://www.flickr.com/photos/spiderdog/2484274442/) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Spider.Dog [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons. See the lovely, soft, cake-like texture of modern parkin? 

The mixture is now a bit more like a cake, with the addition of flour and bicarbonate of soda, and it is less bitter thanks to the brown sugar. The shift towards a sweeter, less bitter, product would continue. A quick look at recipes for parkin in Australian newspapers shows that golden syrup was suggested as an alternative to treacle from 1912. In the mid-1920s it was common to combine treacle and golden syrup and by the 1940s many recipes just use golden syrup. Of course, many people would object that it isn’t really parkin if it doesn’t use treacle!

The flavouring has also changed, with less of the fiery ginger and no caraway, but a little clove and lemon instead. For me, it was this change in the flavour profile that really made the difference, even though the texture still left something to be desired.

The process however remains much the same. The butter, treacle (and sugar) are melted together and added to the dried ingredients before being pressed into a tin and baked at a low heat (although there are exceptions, see for example this recipe in which the fat is rubbed into the dry ingredients).

If you’ve ever made Anzac biscuits this might sound familiar, and as The Colonial Gastronomer brought up in the comments on the last post, it has been suggested that parkin was the origin for Anzacs. Culinary historian Allison Reynolds makes a brief mention of the connection in this radio interview. The real difference that strikes me is the process of adding the raising agent which, in Anzac biscuits, is normally added to the hot liquids. Does anyone know of any parkin recipes which do that too?

[1] “PARKIN.,” Examiner, April 6, 1926.

Parkin, recipe from 1926

The Redaction

115g oatmeal

115g flour

8g ginger

A sprinkle of clove

1/2 lemon rind

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

120g treacle

85g butter

60g brown sugar

  1. Preheat the oven to 150°C. Grease a loaf tin.
  2. Mix the oatmeal, flour, ginger, clove, lemon rind, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Create a well in the centre.
  3. Gently heat the treacle, butter and brown sugar in a saucepan until melted and well combined. Pour the liquid into the well in the dry ingredients and stir to combine.
  4. Press the mixture into the base of the greased loaf tin and bake for an hour or until firm and lightly browned.

The Round-Up

The Recipe: Parkin from The Examiner (available here)

The Date: 1926

How did you make it? See above.

Time to complete?: 1 hr 30 mins

How successful was it?: It tasted much better than the previous recipe but was very dry and hard. It still had a bit of a tendency to crumble. The hardness may be typical though, this recipe suggests that freshly baked parkin is always too hard to eat but that it softens over time. Mine is about 24 hours old, so maybe it will improve yet.

How accurate?: The oatmeal wasn’t really fine enough which may be why it is crumbling.

Bibliography

“PARKIN.” Examiner. April 6, 1926. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article91626220.

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