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To celebrate Halloween, we have a guest post from Ella Buchan, co-author of A Gothic Cookbook

As a treat for this Halloween, Ella Buchan, co-author of A Gothic Cookbook, shares with us a recipe for Rebecca’s “very special gingerbread” inspired by the afternoon tea spreads served at Manderley in Daphne du Maurier’s novel Rebecca.

Those dripping crumpets, I can see them now. Tiny crisp wedges of toast, and piping-hot, floury scones. Sandwiches of unknown nature, mysteriously flavoured and quite delectable, and that very special gingerbread. Angel cake, that melted in the mouth, and his rather stodgier cousin, bursting with peel and raisins. (Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, Virago edition 2003, page 8).

Afternoon tea is a daily ritual at Manderley. It is served at “half past four” on the dot, with a frigid sort of fuss and a stiff formality that contrasts with the warmth of the fire and the array of toasty, typically comforting baked goods being served. You might want to enjoy yours in a more relaxed manner or devour it with an abandon the second Mrs de Winter reserves for some sneaky Bath Oliver biscuits. Among the dishes that make up the lavish spread is “that very special gingerbread”.

Du Maurier doesn’t elaborate on what makes it so very special, so we’ve based ours on the classic Victorian loaf style, brightened it with a crisp, brisk lemon icing and elevated it with a glug of rum.

For A Gothic Cookbook, a celebration of food in the literary genre, my colleague Alessandra Pino and I have recreated the entire afternoon spread as described by the narrator in Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca.

Here is the recipe for That Very Special Gingerbread.

Makes 1 medium loaf (around 10 slices)

400g plain flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tbsp ground ginger
125g unsalted butter
200g soft brown sugar
250ml black treacle
Zest 1/2 a lemon
2 medium eggs, beaten
50ml rum (or you can add 1tsp rum flavouring or lemon extract)

For the lemon glaze:
50g icing sugar
Zest 1 lemon
Juice 1/2 lemon (plus a little more if needed)

1. Butter and line a medium loaf tin. Pre-heat oven to 180C/160C fan/350F/gas mark 4.
2. Add the butter, brown sugar and treacle to a small saucepan and melt over a low heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is smooth (around 5 minutes). Tip: place the pan on the scales and reset the scales to zero before measuring out the ingredients; it’ll save on mess, waste and washing up.
3. Sieve the flour, bicarbonate of soda and ground ginger into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle and add the mixture from the saucepan along with the rum (or extract) and lemon zest. Beat with a wooden spoon until combined. It should look smooth and silky, like melted toffee.
4. Beat in the eggs, working quickly to avoid scrambling them (as the batter will still be warm).
5. Pour into the prepared tin and bake, testing after around 45 minutes with a wooden skewer. If it comes out almost clean (you still want a little stickiness), it’s done. If not, pop it back in for another 5-10 minutes, covering loosely with foil if it already has a crust.
6. Leave in the tin until cooled enough to touch, then tip onto a wire rack to cool completely.
7. To make the icing, mix together the icing sugar and lemon zest, then gradually add lemon juice until you have a smooth, slightly runny icing, adding more juice if needed.
8. Once the loaf has cooled completely, drizzle over the icing. Don’t worry if it pools around the loaf – it will thicken as it cools, and you can scoop up any that’s escaped. Allow to set before slicing, to serve.

The Daphne du Maurier website, thank you, Ella, for bringing us such a delightful and delicious guest post.  We hope many of Daphne’s followers will enjoy making “that very special gingerbread” to share with family and friends this Halloween.

A Gothic Cookbook is currently crowdfunding via Unbound Publishing. You can find a synopsis, a list of recipes, author biographies and excerpts from our Frankenstein and Rebecca chapters here:

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