Sunday, December 16, 2007

Rumballs and Gyngerbrede

While looking through Christmas cookie recipes last year, I came across a couple for rumballs. I probably would have skipped right over them, but I thought I remembered that my grandmother used to make them once upon a time, so I took a closer look. Immediately I was struck by how similar the recipe was to many of the medieval Gyngerbrede recipes. I've made gyngerbrede before, so how hard could this be? Things got busy though, as they frequently do during the holiday season, and I just didn't get around to trying it out.

The though did stick in my mind though, and either I'm way ahead this year or I'm way behind and haven't figured it out yet, because I managed to have time to make a batch this evening. The results? Well ...

Let me start with a small rant. One of the worst things a person can do - something that in my book guarantees them a place in the 5th circle of culinary hell - is to intentionally give out a bad recipe. I'm not talking about vague recipes, where they say "keep adding flour until it's thick." I'm not talking about typos or stupid oversights. I'm talking about when they tell you the wrong amount of flour, or leave the cinnamon out, or any number of tricks, just so they can be sure no one will be able to make the dish as good as they can. It's a form of lying and it's just plain evil. If you don't want to share a recipe, that's fine, but have the guts to say so. Don't pretend you're sharing. Ok, I'm done now.

I'm not sure that the recipes I'd found are examples of this, but there are aspects of each that make me suspect something. From my experience with the gyngerbrede, all of them looked like there was too much liquid and not enough solids - they'd end up really gooey.

So I made a chocolate cake (from mix), crumbled it up, added less rum than the recipes called for (1/2 cup), added less sticky liquid (chocolate & karo syrups) than they called for (3/4 cup), added the same amount of ground pecans, and mixed it up.

They ended up really gooey.

So to try and salvage the goo ('cause it tasted good), I took a trick from the gyngerbrede recipe and started adding bread crumbs until it was too thick to stir. Fifteen slices of bread later and it was workable. I rolled a bazillion bite-sized balls and rolled each one in ground pecans. The wife and kids thought they were ok. I think they could be a lot better. So here's what I'm going to do next time:

  1. Make two (2) cakes, and let them sit out overnight. I don't want them to be too stale (that'll make the final product too grainy), but I really should have let the cake dry out more. I figure with double the cake I may not need any bread.

  2. Add rum flavoring. I could just barely taste the rum, and using more would probably make it gooier (gooeier? gooeyer? is that even a word?).

All that being said, I've still eaten too many of the blasted things and am about 15 minutes away from a food coma, so they can't be that bad.

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