How to make Nussecken, and Gradmere gingerbread

28 June 2019

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ANGELA is a German perfectionist, and her recipe for Nussecken (Nut corners) employs a set square. It was surely that meticulous attention to detail, and the opulence of hazelnuts, chocolate, and apricot and butter, that made up the mind of her future husband, and he made her a proposal of marriage. This recipe makes a great deal of Nussecken: you could woo several people with this quantity.

For the shortcrust:

130g (4½ oz) butter
130g (4½ oz) sugar
2 eggs
300g (10½ oz) flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
 

For the nut layer:

4 tablespoons good apricot jam
200g (7 oz) butter
200g (7 oz) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
200g (7 oz) ground, toasted hazelnuts
200 (7 oz) chopped, toasted hazelnuts

Heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Mix the shortcrust and roll this on to a very large, greased baking sheet to a layer about 1cm thick. Spread a layer of apricot jam evenly on top. Make the nut layer by melting the butter with the sugar and vanilla essence in 4 tablespoons of water. Add the ground and chopped nuts, stir well, and spread this over the jam. Bake the layers for about 40-45 minutes, then cool slightly. Cut them into triangles: Angela’s isosceles triangles are 7cm on the shorter sides.

Melt 150g (5 oz) very dark chocolate over hot water. While the triangles are firm enough to handle, dip the two shorter sides into the chocolate to coat them evenly. Serve. Await the consequences.

I am not a perfectionist, and content myself with breaking my bar of chocolate into pieces, laying them on top of the hot cake/biscuit to melt and spread, and then cutting them into boring squares. I had no proposals of marriage as a consequence, but the Nussecken disappeared rapidly.

One of the few consolations of a recent visit to Grasmere, where Dove Cottage was closed, and the choice was either visiting expensive outdoor-wear shops or silent contemplation of Wordsworth’s grave in the rain, was revisiting Grasmere gingerbread. I tried my old recipe with coconut sugar and agave syrup, and it does well.

450g (1 lb) flour
225g (½ lb) coconut sugar
2 tablespoons agave syrup
225g (½ lb) butter
2 teaspoons ground ginger
 

Rub the ingredients together, or blitz them in a food processor. Bake on a parchment-lined baking tray at 180°C/350°F/Gas 4 for 10-15 minutes, and cut into squares while still hot.

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