Originally a poet, Eliza Acton is considered by many to be the first to write a cookery book as we would recognise it today. Her Modern Cookery for Private Families (1845) was the first to separate a list of ingredients from the methodology, and was aimed specifically at small households. Additionally, the author’s observations on potential problems, and recommendations for subtle variations that were included, emphasised Eliza’s personal experience with the recipes (unlike many of her contemporaries and a great number of cookery authors that were to follow). The book was an immediate success and remained in print for almost 60 years. She was to write only one other—The English Bread Book (1857)—in which she voices her strong views against the adulteration and processing of food (an opinion that would be echoed by Doris Grant almost a century later).
This is Eliza’s recipe for Coconut Gingerbread Cakes, scaled down to a manageable quantity. The bite-sized cakes are dark with the glossy richness of traditional gingerbread, the added coconut giving a lighter, moister texture as well as a more complex flavour.
|80g||fresh grated coconut|
|2 tsp||ground ginger|
|Zest of 1 lemon|
|40g||soft dark brown sugar|
|40g||butter, plus extra for greasing|
|1 x 24-hole||mini-muffin tin|
1 x 24 hole mini-muffin tin.
Fresh coconut is a little time-consuming to prepare, but very much worth the effort. To prepare the fresh coconut: Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6.
With a sharp-pointed implement, poke a hole through one of the 3 'eyes' located at one end of the coconut. There is always one that is weaker than the other two, so if the one you try first seems too hard, try one of the others. Shake out the coconut water.
Put the coconut in the oven for 20 minutes. This will crack the coconut shell and also help loosen the flesh from the shell.
Wrap the coconut in a clean hand towel and strike it against a hard surface to break the shell into pieces.
Ease the white flesh from the hard shell and remove the dark skin with a sharp knife or vegetable peeler. Grate the white feel either by hand or using a food processor.
To make the coconut gingerbread:
Mix the flour, ground rice, ginger and lemon rind in a bowl and set aside.
Put the treacle, sugar and butter into a saucepan and heat gently until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat.
Add the dry ingredients to the warm treacle mixture and stir to combine. Stir in the coconut and then set the mixture aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 120c/100c/gas 1/2. Grease the cups of the muffin tins well.
Divide the cooled mixture into 20g pieces, roll each piece into a ball and drop them into the greased mini-muffin cups.
Bake for 30 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool.