Sunday, March 1, 2015

Welsh Cakes

Most of the members of the dessert group I'm part of on Facebook seem to live in the UK and there are several who either live now or once lived in Wales. Thus, March 1 for them means St David's Day and a good reason to make Welsh cakes. While I am a fan of soda bread for St Patrick's Day, haggis for Burns' Night and pancakes for Shrove Tuesday, I have never eaten nor made Welsh cakes until today. I hadn't really heard of them, in fact.

After seeing a photo on the group, I was determined to give it a go. I decided to use Jamie Oliver's recipe, though I did halve it because 35-40 cakes seemed a bit much for a family of four. I only made a few slight modifications, otherwise. I used home-milled soft wheat berries for the flour and added baking powder and salt to compensate for it not being self-rising. I used a whole small egg instead of halving a large egg, made up my own mixed spice, and substituted dried tart cherries for the raisins or currants.

Welsh cakes are so interesting: the recipe reads like a reasonably standard scone recipe, but you cook them on the stove. I was very dubious that they would cook through and I couldn't quite imagine the texture. I think the reason they work is there is so much butter in them and it melts and cooks. At any rate, they're crisp on the outside and tender on the inside but not exactly in the way a scone is. I'm a new convert and will be adding these to my repertoire. They also make a fair amount (I think I got something like 10-12) so I can make a big batch and possibly freeze a few to accompany an egg on a school morning.

240 g (two cups assuming 120g per cup) whole wheat pastry flour or milled soft wheat berries
1 TBSP baking powder
1/2 to 3/4 tsp salt
Scant 3 TBSP sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
pinch ground cloves (you could also add some nutmeg if you like)
1/2 c dried tart cherries
113 g (1 stick, 4 oz) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 small egg
1-2 TBSP milk

  1. Put the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and spices in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine
  2. Add the dried tart cherries and pulse a few more times to cut the cherries into smaller pieces
  3. Add the cubed butter and pulse 10-15 times until the butter has been cut in and the mixture looks like coarse meal with irregular lumps of butter
  4. Tip the mixture out into a large bowl and make a well. Crack the egg into the well and mix in with a fork
  5. Add the milk, a tablespoon at a time until the mixture barely comes together
  6. Dump out the dough onto a clean counter or piece of parchment or waxed paper and pat into circle
  7. Because I am using whole wheat flour, I let the dough rest for ten minutes so it can absorb the liquid a bit more. While the dough is resting, heat a cast iron or other heavy skillet on medium heat
  8. Once the dough has rested, roll out to about 1/2 inch thick and cut into rounds. You may need to flour the dough a bit. My biscuit cutter is bigger than the one Jamie Oliver used, so my yield was less
  9. Do a test cake and adjust the heat so that the cake will cook in about 4 minutes on each side. I started out at the exact middle setting, but had to go up to a medium-high for a while until my cast iron got really hot. Turn the cakes when they are a deep brown. They will puff slightly when you turn them
  10. Remove to a plate and eat as-is or dust with cinnamon-sugar or serve with cream as you would a scone

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