Friday, April 25, 2014

Ginger Nuts – to dunk or not to dunk, that is the question ...

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Dunk (verb) to dip (bread or other food) into a drink or soup before eating it.
"I dunked a biscuit into the cup of scalding tea"

Blasphemous” talk about HRH - or any British royal for that matter; mobile phone use; slouching; or resting your elbows on the table are all behaviours likely to get you into trouble in a controversial Brighton tearooms. Conversation shouldn’t be more than “two tones above the chink of a teacup” – somewhat hard to measure as teacup-chinking and teaspoon-clinking are also frowned upon. Under NO circumstances drink from the saucer- you could be sent to the Tower.

The Tea Cosy has also prohibited dunking. Engaging in the “unsavoury habit ... will result in you being asked to leave”.

Unsavoury habit? Really? Dunking is an art that has been practiced for aeons. Would The Tea Cosy have evicted Proust for executing one of the most famous literary dunks in history—a madeleine dipped in tea?

We learn to dunk early. For centuries, children have known the pleasures of dunking toast soldiers into the molten centre of a soft-boiled egg. With the arrival of tea, coffee and hot chocolate, dunking has become much more skilled.

According to research from the University of Bristol, dunking a biscuit releases up to ten times more flavour than a dry biscuit. A successful dunk is when the biscuit absorbs enough liquid to release all that extra flavour but not so much that the sugar melts and the structural integrity of the biscuit fails, leaving biscuit-y sludge at the bottom of your cup.

Factors that have to be taken into account are:

Temperature—the hotter the liquid, the faster the sugar melts.

Angle—this is more important with chocolate biscuits and a very shallow angle, chocolate-side-up, is advised as the chocolate provides support. For all others, a 90° angle was found to be better.

Length of timeJammie Dodgers and Rich Tea have considerable staying power—able to withstand a 20-second dunk. Digestives, Hobnobs and Ginger Nuts will start to dissolve after just 2.92 seconds.

I don’t mind the Ginger Nut’s lack of staying power. There is an alchemy in the combination of strong, hot tea (particularly Assam) and the spicy heat released by the biscuit that makes this combination greater than the sum of its parts.

For about 30 biscuits (cookies), you will need...
150g caster sugar (or dark brown sugar)
125g butter
50g black treacle
50g golden syrup
1 small egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
10g mixed peel (or candied orange peel) very finely chopped (optional)
10g preserved ginger in syrup, very finely chopped (optional)
325g plain flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 allspice berries, crushed to a fine powder (or ¼ teaspoon of ground allspice)
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt 

Extra caster sugar for rolling the cookie dough in before baking


Place the sugar, butter, treacle, and golden syrup in a bowl and beat until paler in colour and lighter in texture. 

Continue beating while you add the egg and vanilla extract (along with the mixed peel and preserved ginger if using). Beat until combined. 

Mix together the flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, allspice, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt and add to the mixture in the bowl, beating all the while. 

Pre-heat the oven to 160°C and line 2 or 3 baking sheets (depending on how big your oven is) with non-stick baking parchment.  

Rinse your hands with cold water and shake off any excess moisture. This will help stop the dough sticking too much. Pinch off walnut-sized pieces of dough and form them into balls. Dip the balls in the extra sugar (this gives them a lovely sparkle) before placing on the baking sheets, at least 5cm apart to give them room to spread out. There's no need to flatten them - the heat will do all the work.

No need to flatten them out - the heat will do all the work

Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 17 minutes. At 15 minutes they are cooked but a little chewy. I always remove one tray of the cookies at this point because I like this chewiness, but they are ginger nuts which are supposed to be crunchy so I let the rest cook to full crunchiness.

Shush! Don't tell anyone or we'll be thrown out.
To dunk or not to dunk - that is a question of personal taste. But if you don’t, you won’t know what you’re missing.
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  1. I'm a diehard coffee drinker -- and dunker. Blasphemous may be too kind, Hester.

  2. Well I'm in good company then, Rosemary. Don't you hate it when you get distracted and bits of biscuit escape into the cup!

  3. I'm a dunker - every single time. ...and the dog gets the last bite so there's never a dropped bit.

    These do look good!

  4. Always a dunker. The only way I get my coffee ;)
    These look delicious!

    Choc Chip Uru

  5. Always a dunker. The only way I get my coffee ;)
    These look delicious!

    Choc Chip Uru

  6. Too funny! I think I'd be thrown out within minutes. But I'd be happy to grab some of these dunkers before I go...would never leave these beauties behind :)

  7. I'm not a big sweet eater, but there are two cookies I can't pass up - ginger and lemon. Love them both, and dunking into a cup of tea is a must if you asked me!

  8. Oh yes please, we would like to dunk those ginger nuts in that steaming cup of coffee right now! Cheers!

  9. I like to dunk occasionally -- but I don't like when I get crumbs in the bottom of my cup...

  10. Hester, what a fun post and what a fabulous, spicy cookie recipe - I would love to dunk some of these into my steaming cup of strong and malty East Frisian Tea. The tea and the cookies would certainly complement each other in the most delicious of ways!
    Have a great week!

  11. @ Andrea - actually, I think I was subliminally inspired by your gorgeous "cup of tea" photo.

  12. I love how you described dunking as an art form :) <3 this.

  13. Definitely dunk - must make these this weekend, you have inspired me and as I have never made ginger nuts - these are now a must!

  14. the Tea Cosy would definitely have thrown out Proust... on account of him being a Frenchman!!

  15. I dunk bread and biscuits in my coffee. Your ginger nuts. . . that for sure I'm dunking. Have a good weekend Hester. :)

  16. "Two tones about the chink of a teacup" - LOVE it! How I've missed these ginger nuts and had forgotten about them. I always dunked them, since they were quite hard on the teeth and then you'd end up with tons of gingery mush at the bottom of the teacup.
    Thanks for brining back the memories and bringing ginger nuts back to our table. Must make them.


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