Monday, 10 January 2011

Family traditions - The parkin pig

My Grandma used to make a parkin biscuit that we devoured as children. A cross between a butter biscuit and a ginger biscuit, perfect with coffee, warm and cold milk or a humble cup of tea. The dough contains no egg, so it lasts for an age in the fridge, which is useful since the recipe makes about 60 biscuits. If you live in a child-free house like us this quantity of biscuits can be quite challenging, even for the dedicated glutton. So I split the batch into thirds and make them as and when I want them.

Parkin Pigs
As long as I can remember my Grandma only ever had a pig cutter. We'd travel the 35-40 mins between South Leeds and East Yorkshire and the first thing we'd have when we got there was a cup of tea and a parkin pig. Or seven. When I asked her for the recipe over Christmas I then failed to find a pig cutter anywhere and had to settle on a T-Rex - heralding the dawn of a new tradition: the parkin dinosaur! But low and behold on my birthday a small package arrived and nestled in between bits of cotton wool padding there was my very own pig cutter. Thanks Grandma.

My experience making these as an adult is very similar to tasting them as a child: no two batches ever taste the same. Sometimes you might add slightly more syrup (or in my case half treacle, half syrup) giving the biscuit a chewy, toffee crunch. More flour or sugar gives a harder crunch perfect for dunking. But ultimately it's the cooking time that's the key. Please don't rely on the timer. Stand there, in front of the oven and wait. Check after 4 or 5 minutes and then be ready with your oven gloves the moment they reach perfection. If the biscuits have been sat on the side for 10 mins waiting for the oven then the dough will be warmer and the cooking time will alter accordingly. Your first batch may be entirely different in consistency to your second batch even though they are cut from the same dough. I've halved the quantities for this recipe and depending on how thinly you roll the dough and the size of your cutter you should realistically get about 30 biscuits.

  • 150g plain flour
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 50g butter or lard
  • 1/2 tblsp golden syrup
  • 1/2 tblsp treacle
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ginger powder
  • 2 tblsp hot water
  • 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
  • pinch of salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl (or bowl mixer with k-beater) combine the sifted flour, sugar, ginger, salt and baking powder together then add the butter or fat and mix into dry ingredients like crumble
  3. Add the syrup and treacle and stir with a large spoon (or the dough hook of a bowl mixer). Place the treacle and syrup spoon in a cup with the hot water and bicarb of soda and leave for 2 mins until the water cleans the spoon. Then add the water to the bowl and continue to mix until a dough (similar in consistency to a bread or pasta dough) is formed. Add the water incrementally to make sure it doesn't get too wet. Wrap the dough in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for at least an hour.
  4. Roll dough onto a floured surface until it is approximately 5mm thick and use your cutter of choice to make the shapes. Place the shapes onto a greased oven sheet and bake for 5-6 mins, until golden brown. The biscuits will still feel soft but will harden almost instantly as you transfer them to a cooling rack.

Run little piggy, run for your life!


  1. HI Jane. I've been scouring the internet for information about Parkin pigs and ended up here. I'm from Bradford and we always had parkin pigs made by my Granny. My mum now has 'the' pig cutter...which I covet greatly...but she makes a delicious pig. I'm just about to blog about when we ate Parkin pigs and will post my mum's recipe. Good to read yours. Axxx

  2. Hi Annie. I have discovered since writing this 2 years ago that parkin pigs are an almost exclusively Bradford thing. My Grandma is from there is well. I hope you enjoy them!