Thursday, January 26, 2012

Gypsy Creams - eventually.

Well, here is the first of my occassional recipes from my Grandmother's notebook. My Grandmother, Elizabeth, was born into a large Methodist family in the North East of England in 1901.  She became the manageress of Pattinsons - a large Tea room/bakery in the city of Durham, and many of her recipes were inspired by her time there.  She died at the age of 84, and I still miss her today.  She was my friend as well as my Gran. 

In fact, she wasn't my grandmother at all, although I didn't find out until I was much older.  My father's parent's marriage was one of the hidden casualties of WWII.  I don't really know all the details - my dad always says he was too young to remember, and he was far too busy playing football, or hide and seek  -  but I have heard bits and pieces from various sources over the years - particularly from my Aunt.  All I know is that there was an affair, a baby born out of wedlock, and my Grandpa coming home from the war to take care of his two abandoned children who had been left with their grandparents.  One of my cousin's has vaguely talked about writing a novel about it, and I am sure it would be a good one. 

Anyway, my grandfather had gone to visit an old army friend in Durham, just after the war, had gone to the tea shop,and there met my Gran, who would have been a spinster in her mid 40s at that time. They fell in love and married. I am always filled with admiration thinking of how strong a woman Elizabeth must have been. For a middle aged, single, religious woman -  to have left her family, come back with her husband ( a war veteran and recently divorced), to the small town where everyone would have known about the "scandal", to take on the care of  his two children, who had lived through all the deprivations of the war, and the trauma of their mother leaving, and to become involved in the life of the community, church and family in the  graceful way she did deserves more than a medal. She is my hero and inspiration to this day. 

Wow - it seems a bit mundane now to turn to recipes after all that drama, but, that is what we are here for.  No doubt various family anecdotes will find their way in to these posts as we go along. This recipe book was a Christmas gift to my Gran the year after her marriage.  It is inscribed:

With best wishes
Xmas 1948
from Hannah and Tite.

Aunt Hannah was the youngest of my grandmother's siblings.  There were 6 in all - 5 girls and 1 boy, and I was privileged to know them all, as we often took trips down to England to visit. "Here's Scotland coming!", my Uncle George used to say, as we piled out of the train, or the car. 
Uncle Tite was Hannah's husband - his full name was Titus.  All the family had wonderful exotic Biblical names and were just the most wonderful kind people you could ever meet.  

Ok - the recipe.  I will be sharing mostly recipes that I remember fondly from the groaning tea table that we sat round every week, but also some that I don't know - bearing fascinating names like "Humpty Dumpties" or "Goody Boats" - just to see what they are.
This week, though, in response to a special request, we are baking Gypsy Cream biscuits - a crunchy chocolate cookie sandwich with a chocolate cream filling.  Gypsy creams were made by the McVitie biscuit company, and were very popular as I grew up - I seem to remember they came in a brown box. They are no longer made, as far as I can tell, but I did see a reference to Romany creams somewhere, which may be similar.  This is the recipe in my Gran's notebook, and they did feature quite regularly in the weekly baking session

melt together
2 oz butter
2 oz lard
3level tablespoons golden syrup 

 (do try and make the syrup spoonful level - I think mine were a bit too generous and the biscuits were quite hard as a result)

Sift together
6 oz flour
1 heaped tablespoon cocoa or drinking chocolate
1 teasp baking powder
1/4 teasp baking soda

stir in 
2 oz sugar
2 oz porridge oats

mix dry ingredients into wet

add a teacup full of milk

shape into walnut size balls, place on a greased baking sheet and flatten out with a fork.

Bake for 20 minutes at 325 def F (160 C)

When cooled, sandwich together with chocolate butter-cream icing (frosting)

Not bad at all!  I was never really a bought gypsy cream aficionado, so I don't know how they compare to McVitie's. They did taste a lot like I remember my Grandmother's.  A bit harder - see my note on the syrup - and a bit chocolate-ier, as I used cocoa instead of drinking choc, but all in all, pretty tasty. Don't fear the lard - I think it does make a difference, but you could use a white vegetable fat instead  - just stay away from the hydrogenated stuff. xxx.


  1. what a fantastic post! I just love family history, fasinating.
    The book is something out of my dreams, and wow the look of gypsy creams, I feel a little baking coming on!

  2. what a wonderful old book and lovely to hear some history! I have a thing for old books!

    I am pinning this page so that i remember to make these! Look yummy!!!

  3. What a treasure, the book and your Grandmother. How wonderful to have the book and all the memories that come with it.

    The gypsy creams look very tasty x

  4. Jacqui, if there is ever a book do please let us know! That was a wonderful story.
    I have all of my Granny's old recipes and like you, she was my friend too; I miss her daily.
    There is a tub of lard in my pantry that I keep it to make pie crusts for the guy's. I think I have all the other ingredients to try your recipe so will give it a go!

  5. I would say she was every bit your grandmother. What an amazing woman. Such strength

  6. neat story! And how can one go wrong with butter, lard, syrup, chocolate, sugar,...?

  7. I remember gypsy creams - loved them when I was a wee girl! Great story about your Gran - sounds like it would make a good novel.
    Liz @ Shortbread & Ginger

  8. Now thats my kind of story. Too romantic for words! I would have loved to have met such an amazing woman as your dear Grandmother. She must have been a very special woman to have taken on what she did. If a book ever does get written, I would love to read it!

    The biscuits sounds delicious, so much so that I think they might have to be added to this afternoons baking stint. They sound just the type of biscuit that would be devoured very quickly in this house!
    Thankyou for sharing x

  9. What a fantastic portrait of your grandmother. She sounds like an amazing women. I think many women of that era were pretty incredible, although would not have thought of themselves that way. I'd love to hear more about her.

    As for gypsy creams, I'd never heard of them before.

    Thank you!

  10. Such an intriguing "peek into the past" ~ thank you so much for sharing this with us!

  11. I have Scottish that the same as porridge oats?
    Wonderful family story...Your Grandmother's notebook is a real treasure.

  12. that was a beautiful story jacqui, i love family history too, its all so complicated, but so normal too. your grandmother sounds like the kind of person i would look up to as well. her book is a treasure, i'm glad its ended up in your caring hands.

  13. What an incredible story to wrap around your recipe. Thanks for sharing it with us and I agree, your grandmother was an incredible woman.

  14. What a fascinating story about your grandmother. Thank you for sharing the inspiration!

  15. Well I hope someone is writing the book, with the recipes, why not you?! Amazing. Thank you.

  16. I thrive on family history and your story was delightful! I was very close to my gram and I do have some of her recipes that I treasure. I love her measurements i.e. "a hand full"....It always makes me smile with her vague accuracy!

  17. Just because there wasn't blood involved doesn't make her any less your grandmother. The fact that she loved your grandfather and his two children and was good to them just proves that she was more of a grandmother than your biological one was.

    And those cookies look lovely and I think I might dig around for a recipe of my own now...I think I have one. Or I'll just make yours :)

  18. wow! The story of your Gran gave me goosebumps...I love the sound of that lady...what a brave gal!xxx

  19. She sounds like a wonderful woman, and very brave to do that. And the biscuits look wonderful, I'll have to try them.

  20. Thanks for sharing this amazing family story! How wonderful that you have the recipes to treasure.

  21. What a wonderful story about your Gran (and it would definitely be a fantastic book).

    These sound delicious! Thank you for sharing.

  22. Thank you all - she was indeed a very special woman - and very much my real Grandmother. I feel very sad for my birth grandmother - it must have been such a difficult time for her too and I cannot imagine how she must have felt in the circumstances she found herself in. War is a terrible thing and there were so many silent tragedies like this. However, it ended happily for my father - and for me.
    Meggie - I am not sure if our oatmeal is the same as yours.Porridge oats here is also called rolled oats. it is not the quick-cook kind. We have various grades of oatmeal - fine, medium, coarse and pinhead, and then there is the rolled oats. I hope that helps you...

  23. I love the story behind this post. History in a family is some how fascinating, maybe it's because we can see glimmers of ourselves in those who have preceded us. Bickies looked yummy as well.


  24. i love stories like this so thanks for sharing. the biscuits look delicious. i'm not sure if you are putting this recipe and the last one with the meringues on your "recipes" tab but i would be forever grateful and then i don't have to remember where i saw it last. the old memory is not what it used to be. :)

  25. JTS - 'tis done. I meant to do it earlier, sorry.
    Thank you all again for your lovely comments
    Liz and Megan - lovely to see you around in the blog world again too. xx

  26. What a beautiful story and such history behind it too.

    Ah, Gypsy Creams now that takes me back, they were one of my favourites!!

    San xx

  27. Gypsy Creams! There's a blast from the past! Thank you for sharing, and for the wonderful tale of your family history.

  28. How wonderful. I love the story. I am glad to know that people did do the best they could under difficult circumstances. There is a similar story about my grandfather and he was born in 1889. I have my grandmother's recipe book to cherish.

    I am going to try the recipe. It looks tasty.

  29. I love this post. It surely makes me think of how generations as so quickly obscured in rumor . You were lucky to know your Gran for so long, having lost mine at a young age, I really apreciated imagining yours. Those gypsy creams look delectible !!! I worked at a bakery in my 20's and am thinking of posting some of the recipes I have from those days. I have yet to merge my cooking blog with my knitting blog (I even threw together a 'menopause' , or how I'd go about getting involved in the recipe circle, but I will certainly try for something !

  30. I adore this tale and the recipe is the icing on the cake! How wonderful to record your memories and history this way, and how generous you are to share it with us! Thank you.

  31. These sound yummy. I too love the history with the recipes -makes them a more cherished recipe. I'm glad you clarified the lard. I was wondering if I could use veg shortening instead (there's an organic non-hydrogenated one I use). But...what is golden syrup? light corn syrup? And porridge oats are old-fashioned oats? And a teacup full is roughly 3/4 of a cup? Forgive the 'ignorant american'. :)

    I'm looking forward to more of your tea time goodies. Thanks for sharing.

  32. Grandmothers are great huh? I've been selecting things from my late grandmothers possesions to keep today ... they leave such legacies and there were some very heroic women for the time back then. Not to say that there aren't now but it was different wasn't it? I will deffinitly try her recipe very soon, we're on a baking binge since I bought a new cake stand that begs to be filled each weekend ;0) enjoy your weekend
    Blessings and love X

  33. What a wonderful story. I'm always amazed when I hear of the stories of people coming through the war.Thanks for the wonderful recipes.

  34. Thanks again for your lovely comments.
    Ellen -sorry, I do try to include US quantities and equivalents, but never seem to cover them all - light corn syrup will be fine and old fashioned oats are the ones. A teacup is roughly 4 fl oz. As long as the dough is fairly stiff and mould-able, then it should be ok. xxx

  35. Been working,now finished for a couple of days, clicked on your site and oh my goodness-thats the ones Jacqui.THE gypsy creams I've been looking for !
    Thank you for taking the time to look out the recipe and if it was'nt so late I would be in the kitchen now.Actually you know something ,off tomorrow so maybe theres still time -LOL !
    Do you know what I always find amazing about woman like your Grandmother ,my Granny ,so many unassuming women, they were definitely 'not of their time;,they were ahead of their time but for 101 reasons did'nt even realise it.
    Thank you again Jacqui,now off to the kitchen....

  36. A lovely story, a very treasured book full of wonderful things. The biscuits looks very nice indeed.

  37. Omg! That recipe book is identical to my Mum's. Even the hand writing is similar!


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