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Cornish Fairings (Ginger Biscuits)

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A centuries old cherished Cornish treat, these traditional Cornish Fairings are packed with flavor and are wonderfully crunchy, making them oh so perfect for dunking!

For more traditional British treats try my Treacle TartSticky Toffee Pudding, Lardy CakeSpotted DickVictoria Sponge CakeEccles Cakes and Crumpets!

cornish fairings recipe ginger biscuits cookies traditional authentic crunchy gingerbread Cornwall England

I grew up in Cambridgeshire, England and have traveled all over the country, have visited every county, and love it all, but Cornwall holds a particularly special place in my heart. With it’s breathtaking rugged coastlines, rolling landscapes, historic castles and manors, charming fishing villages, and strong ancestral connection (you can read more about that in my Cornish Pasty post), we go back frequently and feel emotionally recharged each time. And on every visit I spend time further exploring old Cornish traditions, including of course traditional Cornish food. Today’s recipe goes back centuries and is a cherished ginger biscuit (cookie) known as Cornish Fairings.

What is a Cornish Fairing?

The term “fairing” originally referred to any small, edible souvenir sold at fairs throughout England. These treats varied by region, with gingerbread being a particularly popular choice because it kept for a long while before spoiling. These gingerbread creations would be baked in all shapes and sizes and were often purchased and given as tokens of affection. They were also purchased as good luck charms; young women would buy gingerbread shaped men in the hope of finding their husbands that year. With these varying traditions throughout the counties of England, Cornwall emerged with a version of its own: a spiced and crunchy ginger biscuit that was perfect for dunking in tea, the Cornish Fairing.

cornish fairings recipe ginger biscuits cookies traditional authentic crunchy gingerbread Cornwall England

One such historic fair in Cornwall is the Summercourt Fair held annually the end of September just outside of Newquay. The fair continues today, 800 years later, as Cornwall’s oldest fair. We haven’t yet been to Summercourt Fair because we usually go in June and our tradition is to go in time for the Royal Cornwall Show, which is Cornwall’s famous agricultural show, running since 1827. Our kids love to see all of the sheep, cows, pigs and other animals, sample local treats, and watch an annual event called the Massed Parades of Hounds. We have a Treeing Walker Coonhound, the American descendent of the English Foxhound, and so it’s fun to see a hundred or so hounds running across the field the horsemen in traditional clothing.

royal cornwall show foxhounds horses

Other counties in England sold their own variations of gingerbread or ginger biscuit fairings at their local fairs historically, but the Cornish Fairing is the only one that has remained, an exception being the lesser known Dorset Fair Gingerbreads. It’s a tradition that the Cornish people have refused to let fade away in the dust of time and have kept alive centuries later as a treasured piece of Cornish culinary heritage. Largely to thank for that is a baker from Truro named John Cooper Furniss who turned the Cornish Fairing into a commercial venture. He started Furniss Foods and in 1886 started producing Cornish Fairings commercially. He even sold them by mail order and soon people all around England were enjoying these ginger biscuits, which propelled the Cornish Fairing to national fame. Furniss continues to make them today and holds the legal rights to the name.

cornish fairings recipe ginger biscuits cookies traditional authentic crunchy gingerbread Cornwall England

Cornish Fairing Ingredients

Flour, sugar and butter form the base of these ginger fairings. Traditionally lard would have been used. I have made these with all butter as well as half butter and half lard and while I’m a fan of lard in certain baking applications, I prefer all butter for these ginger biscuits. You can try both ways and see what you prefer. You can easily make your own lard (strongly recommended) which is super easy. Check out my tutorial on How to Make Lard. Cornish Fairings are flavored with a generous dose of ground ginger, cinnamon and mixed spice. Don’t be afraid to use the generous amounts of spices. Cornish Fairings are bold and delicious with a mildly spicy kick. If you’re not already familiar with it, mixed spice is a traditional spice blend used in lot of British baking. You can readily find it online but can very easily make your own, which is what I recommend for the best flavor. Check out my recipe for homemade Mixed Spice. Another essential ingredient for Cornish Fairings is golden syrup. This contributes both flavor and texture. Again, this can be purchased online or you can make your own (not quite the same but pretty close). Check out my recipe for homemade Golden Syrup.

Aside from that you will need baking powder and baking soda and Cornish Fairings call for a sizable amount of both. Don’t be alarmed, these quantities are traditional and contribute not only to the Cornish Fairing’s characteristic crackled top but also to its magnificent crunchy texture. Something I love about them is that unlike many other biscuits, these retain their crunch for several days. These Cornish Fairings are especially fabulous dunked in tea, the traditional way to eat them. Or, as my kids enjoy them, dunked in milk.

cornish fairings recipe ginger biscuits cookies traditional authentic crunchy gingerbread Cornwall England

Cornish Fairings Recipe

Let’s get started!

Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C.

Place all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir to combine.

combing dry ingredients in bowl

Place the golden syrup and butter in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat until the butter is melted.

melting golden syrup and butter

Pour the golden syrup/butter mixture into the dry mixture. Stir to combine and then knead with your hands to form a stiff dough.

combining wet and dry ingredients to make cookie dough

The way these biscuits are made in the factory at Furniss, is they drop the balls of biscuit dough on a conveyor belt that is then run through a machine with a big roller that flattens them out before taking them off to the oven. We’re going to do the same by rolling the dough into 1-inch balls, place each ball on the palm of your hand and press down to flatten them.

forming dough into balls and flattening them

Place the flattened dough balls onto a lined baking sheet. Bake on the middle rack for 11-14 minutes or until they’re a deep golden brown. Note, the longer they bake the crunchier they’ll be, so base the length of baking time on your texture preference.

Let the ginger fairings sit on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. Store the biscuits in an airtight container at room temperature where they will keep for a several days.

baking the biscuits on a cookie sheet

Enjoy!

cornish fairings recipe ginger biscuits cookies traditional authentic crunchy gingerbread Cornwall England
cornish fairings recipe ginger biscuits cookies traditional authentic crunchy gingerbread Cornwall England

Cornish Fairings (Ginger Biscuits)

A centuries old cherished Cornish treat, these traditional Cornish Fairings are packed with flavor and are wonderfully crunchy, making them oh so perfect for dunking!
5 from 17 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 14 minutes
Total Time 24 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine British, Cornish
Servings 12
Calories 204 kcal

Ingredients
 
 

  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar , or regular granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger (yes, that's tablespoon, don't shy away!)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • homemade mixed spice (recommended for the best flavor)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped candied ginger (optional)
  • homemade candied ginger
  • 1/2 cup butter or combination butter and lard (dairy-free: use all lard)
  • 6 tablespoons golden syrup

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C.
    Place all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir to combine.
    Place the golden syrup and butter in a small saucepan andheat over medium heat until the butter is melted.
    Pour the golden syrup/butter mixture into the dry mixture. Stir to combine and then knead with your hands to form a stiff dough.
    Roll the dough into 1-inch balls, place each ball on the palm of your hand and press down to flatten them.
    Place the flattened dough balls onto a lined baking sheet. Bake on the middle rack for 11-14 minutes or until they're a deep golden brown. Note, the longer they bake the crunchier they'll be, so base the length of baking time on your texture preference.
    Let the ginger fairings sit on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. Store the biscuits in an airtight container at room temperature where they will keep for a several days.
    Makes about two dozen Cornish Fairings.

Nutrition

Serving: 2biscuitsCalories: 204kcalCarbohydrates: 32gProtein: 2gFat: 8gSaturated Fat: 5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.4gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0.3gCholesterol: 20mgSodium: 247mgPotassium: 79mgFiber: 1gSugar: 18gVitamin A: 238IUVitamin C: 0.1mgCalcium: 31mgIron: 1mg
Keyword Cornish Fairings, Ginger Biscuits
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
kimberly killebrew the daring gourmet

Hi, I’m Kimberly Killebrew and welcome to Daring Gourmet where you'll find delicious originals, revitalized classics, and simply downright good eats from around the world! Originally from Germany, later raised in England, world-traveled, and now living in the U.S., from my globally-influenced kitchen I invite you to tour the world through your taste buds!

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Recipe Rating




5 from 17 votes (9 ratings without comment)

24 Comments

  1. These are such scrumptious ginger biscuits! Crunchy indeed and a generous amount of flavor. I didn’t, and wouldn’t, change a thing, these are perfect.

  2. These were wonderful!! I was nervous about the amount of ginger called for but I decided to trust you because everything else I’ve made has been excellent, and the resulting flavor was fabulous. I even made my own mixed spice using your recipe. And you’re absolutely right about these retaining their crunch after a few days. On to make another batch now! :)

  3. These were every bit as good as you described. Love the crunch! Made exactly as written and will definitely be making them again. Keep these wonderful traditional recipes coming!

  4. I can’t tell you how excited I am for this recipe! Holidays in Cornwall are a favorite childhood pastime. Mum wouldn’t allow us too many sweets but we did always indulge in a packet of Furniss Cornish Fairings. I don’t make it down there as often as I used to but still love the biscuits and cannot wait to make my own with your recipe. I’ve made many of your recipes, all excellent, so I know I can trust them :) Thank you, Kimberley!

    1. I just wanted to report back and say how utterly and irresistibly delicious these were! A true taste of home and a walk down memory lane. Thank you again, Kimberley, I treasure you and your recipes.