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If you’re in Yorkshire, Lancashire and potentially Hull you’ll have glorious taste-tang memories of Parkin - the oaty, treacle-y, ginger-y cake that’s pretty much unheard of outside of those regions. Parkin is thought to hark from the industrial age that shaped so much of the northern corridor and if you ever visit the Huddersfield Weavers Cottages, then take a piece of it with you just to complete the sense memory.
In Yorkshire, Parkin is generally oat-filled, whereas in Lancashire it’s oat-free. But the recipe is so old and so particular to families (never mind geographical regions), that it’s difficult to say which Parkin you’ll get served wherever you turn up. For our version, Tim Smith, the owner/head baker of Zuzu’s Bakery, has gone for the full-on, oat-packed Yorkshire variety.
Zuzu’s is brand new micro bakery on the high street creating speciality breads which are a little harder to find. So I have a stock sourdough white and a stock sandwich bread and there are a variety of different handmade buns, German, Swedish and Russian breads… a whole range that people aren’t used to. One of my favourites at the moment is a dark, German rye which has walnuts running through it. It’s just lovely, especially with really good sharp cheeses and soups. Also I don’t tend to use sugar so, where I can, I create low sugar, low salt, vegetarian and vegan breads.
Parkin for me was in the first recipe book my mum had around 1973. It might have been Robert Carrier but I can’t swear on it. And as this was down South, away from Parkin’s homeland we didn’t know what Parkin was. Anyway in the book it was called Sticky gingerbread/Parkin so we always said we were going to have Sticky gingerbread and Parkin without realising it was the same thing. So I was like ‘where’s this other thing, where’s the Parkin?’ And mum said ‘Oh the other thing is custard, that’s the Parkin.’ And then she’d serve it with custard. So for a long time I thought Parkin was custard.
I’m using a recipe that’s based on Dorothy Hartley’s and she talks about serving Parkin with apple sauce at tea-time. And she is all about the oatmeal and I’m definitely all about the oatmeal too. But because of the time of year I wanted to make it a little bit christmassy so I’m using allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg. I’m also using almond milk, just because I think it tastes better and gives a softer bake… but it also means this is a vegan Parkin. So literally everybody can eat this.
I use powdered ginger because it works really well, Dorothy uses candied ginger but I think it has enough sugar in it already.
Then, after it’s cooked I’m going to keep it in a wooden box for a week and I’m now interested in experimenting with different types of wood. So I think I could get some whisky or sherry cask wood and see if keeping the Parkin in that affects the taste.
Egg beater (or use a fork!)
Stand mixer (or hands for fun)
18cm cake tin
225g golden syrup
50g black treacle
110g butter (if adding salt use unsalted butter otherwise use salted butter and don’t add salt later)
110g dark brown soft sugar
225g medium oatmeal (or use standard oats and either grind or blade process them in a food processor)
110g self-raising flour
2 level teaspoons ground ginger
1 level teaspoon ground allspice.
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (for festive flavouring)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (for festive flavouring)
A pinch of salt (or 1/4 teaspoon if you’re nervous)
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon milk (I use almond milk)
Then be patient. Put the lot in an airtight (ideally wooden) box and wait for at least a day and preferably a week before eating.
Is this how you and your family cook Parkin? Let us know what version you like. And if you have a different traditional northern dish that you’d like us to feature then let us know over Twitter @TPExpressTrains and we’ll put it on the list.