I wish I had saved one of these for myself. Before I could think about whether or not I would want one in the future I gave them all away to friends and family.
I am pretty stoked though at how far these went and all the joy they brought. Five to my flatmate to take to his parent's place. Two to my flatmates, four to my own family, three for my friend for her birthday and two for my other friend as a thank you. Not a bd effort for a single batch. So whilst sure I would have loved one once the rain started pouring this afternoon I do not begrudge the enjoyment they gave other people. I compensated by shoving my face full of cheese scone when I turned up at Mum and Dads.
Last weekend I went to the farmers market in Christchurch with Dylan. If we go there on a Saturday morning we always seem to get cake for breakfast. It's great. First stop is the coffee stand followed by a warming meat pastry (cue greasy sausage roll or cornish pasty). After a full round or two of the stalls we succumb to the array of beautifully decorated cakes at one of them. The cakes made by a particular young woman known as Anna from Cakes by Anna are delicious. We had this lovely dense ginger loaf with cream cheese icing, butterscotch walnuts and I think dried apple on top.
I decided to try and recreate these loaves using my own spin on Dylan's favourite ginger loaf recipe as practice so I could make them for him next time I see him. Like sure regular ginger loaf is great but who doesn't love cream cheese icing, candied walnuts, salted caramel and extra crystallised ginger?
One question though, what is the difference between a loaf and a cake? This loaf is pretty much like cake. Add icing and it is a cake. Like what if I put this into a cake tin? Would it become a cake? Would the same happen with banana loaf? Someone please enlighten me.
Usually the recipe for these loaves makes two large loaves and takes well over an hour at 150 degrees. By reducing the loaf size to a fraction you can increase the temperature to 170 degrees and reduce the time in the oven to just 25 minutes. Also icing these is a whizz, just three piped blobs of cream cheese icing - zero skill required, just a round tip nozzle and a piping bag. These loaves are best baked the day before. The overnight rest makes the texture a little more sturdy and helps the flavours to develop just that little bit more. If you are lacking a mini loaf pan then a muffin pan would work just as well - serve the muffins upside down, put one great big blob of icing and let the salted caramel flow down the sides like lava. Nom.
The salted caramel recipe will make way too much for the loaves here. Never fear though, this keeps in the fridge for weeks. Serve it warm on top of ice cream or use it to decorate cakes.
Baby Ginger, Date and Walnut Loaves
Makes 20 (this is very easily halved)
Wildly adapted from Al Brown's recipe here
For the loaves:
2 cups plain flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/3 cups golden syrup
1 cup milk
100g dates, soaked in boiling water until soft, drained then mashed lightly
70g packet of walnut pieces
75g crystallised ginger, each piece cut in half
For the icing:
125g cream cheese
400g icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
For the candied walnuts:
1/3 cup white sugar
70g walnut halves
For the salted caramel:
1 1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon plus more to taste salt
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees on bake. Take a mini loaf pan tray, spray well with cooking spray then line the bottom of each with a rectangle of baking paper.
Sieve together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, brown sugar and spices until all the lumps are gone (you may have to use your beater to get all the sugar lumps out).
In a saucepan on a low heat, gently melt the butter then stir through the golden syrup. Pour this into the dry ingredients and mix on a slow speed then add in the eggs and milk. Stir in the mashed mushy dates.
Fill each loaf pan until about two thirds full then sprinkle a couple of pieces of the chopped ginger and walnuts into each. Bake for 25 minutes then remove and cool for about fifteen twenty before very carefully prying out of the tin. Wipe out the tin of any loaf residue then re-grease, re-line with paper and repeat with the rest of the batter.
Leave to fully cool or better yet, leave them overnight before icing and assembling.
To make the caramel heat the sugar and water together in a medium sized saucepan. Begin to warm the cream in a separate saucepan but be careful not to boil. Bring the sugar and water to the boil without stirring and continue to heat until it turns a bright amber colour. This should take around 7 minutes. I recommend wearing rubber gloves to protect your hands from the steam for the next bit. Remove from the heat and gradually pour in the warmed cream stirring with a spatula as you go. Make sure you scrape down the bottom of the pan dissolving all the sugar into the cream. Once the caramel is smooth, start adding the salt and tasting it with each bit you add (make sure you blow well on the spoon first!). Leave the caramel to fully cool. Store in an airtight jar in the fridge. It will last a few weeks in there.
To make the candied walnuts, take a medium sized frying pan and place on a medium heat. Place a sheet of non-stick baking paper on the bench. Pour in the sugar and shake the pan to smooth it to a thin layer. Wait for most of the sugar to melt and turn a golden colour. At this point toss in your walnuts and stir to coat them with sugar with a spatula. Before they have a chance to set solid try and take them out individually and place on the baking paper. Worst case scenario you end up with a lump of candied nut but thats ok, you can break it up later. Leave for half an hour to harden.
To make the icing, beat together the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Gradually start mixing in the icing sugar then pour in the vanilla. Beat on high until fluffy and smooth.
To assemble, place your icing in a piping bag fitted with a large round tip nozzle. Pipe three blobs of icing onto each loaf. Onto each loaf place a segment or two of candied walnut and more crystallised ginger. Using a teaspoon, finally drizzle over salted caramel onto each loaf.
Andy my flatmate was sure excited to eat one..