Yorkshire Parkin - Gastro Obscura


Yorkshire Parkin

On November 5, the British celebrate a thwarted assassination attempt with bonfires and deliciously dense, sticky gingerbread.

While the exact date when Yorkshire parkin became a key part of England’s Guy Fawkes Night may never be known, one thing is certain: The dense, moist, intensely-flavored bread is now as intrinsic to the November 5 holiday as a blazing bonfire.

The gingerbread-like treat is eaten on and around November 5, when the British gather to celebrate the thwarting of an attempt to assassinate King James I and members of Parliament. On that day in 1605, an anonymous tip led authorities to the cellars beneath the House of Lords, where Guy Fawkes stood guarding 36 barrels of gunpowder. Upon their discovery, Fawkes and his conspirators were not long for this world, but the evening went down in history, becoming the widely celebrated holiday it is today. In addition to bonfires and burning effigies of Fawkes, Brits honor the day with an array of treats, the Yorkshire parkin being top on the list for many (especially in, of course, Yorkshire).

The cake-like bread gets its distinctive flavor and dark color from ginger and treacle (the British term for dark molasses), while flour and oats give the parkin its dense structure. Straight out of the oven, the bread will have a dry, crumbly texture, but when a loaf is left in a covered tin for days (sometimes weeks), the treacle preserves and moistens it into a sticky treat. So, although fire is certainly part of the holiday (sometimes called Bonfire Day), to achieve ideal chewiness, home cooks and bakeries should light their ovens beginning around the end of October. The spiced loaves should reach perfect consistency just in time for the bonfire. Don’t forget the tea.