Monday, 30 May 2011

Eccles Cakes

Recipe Number Forty Three:  Page 116 &117


I asked Neil the other day what was his all time favourite cake. The answer was Eccles Cakes, so I thought I'd give them a try. I have to admit I was rather daunted by this recipe, the instructions spread over two pages. Mary had even provided drawings as a guide, gulp! The filling looked very simple; it was the flaky pastry that seemed to be the trouble maker. I have made flaky pastry once about five years ago, so I can't really remember much about the process.

I rolled up my sleeves and measured the plain flour into my mixing bowl. I weighed out the butter. It didn't have to be soft for a change; butter should be chilled for pastry. The butter had to be divided up into four equal portions; one of the portions had to be rubbed into the flour. I noticed there was a tip at the end of the recipe; Mary advises that if you want light pastry you should lift your hands well above the bowl when rubbing in. I think I held my hands up a bit too high as some of the mixture didn't make it back into the bowl and had to be scooped off the worktop! I added a squeeze of lemon juice; Neil was horrified I had bought yet another lemon for only a small squeeze of juice! Now I just needed some cold water to bind everything together. The resulting dough was a little dry, but it came good when I kneaded it on the worktop; it didn't take long before it became soft and manageable. I had to roll the pastry into a long oblong. I took another portion of butter, cut it up into small pieces and dotted it over the top two-thirds of the pastry. I had to turn the oblong into a little parcel by folding the bottom third of the pastry up and then the top third down on top. I sealed it up with the edge of my hand as best I could until it resembled an envelope. This was then wrapped in cling film and put in the fridge for fifteen minutes to rest. I also decided that this seemed as good a time as any to have a little rest. However, my little boy had other ideas and we had a rather one sided game of catch!

When the fifteen minutes were up I retrieved my pastry from the fridge and re-rolled it as before. I have to say I didn't find this paragraph of instructions very clear. A more experienced baker would no doubt find it obvious. But, for someone like myself, I did not! Mary says to re-roll the pastry as before, until the remaining portions of butter have been used up then wrap in cling film, put back in the fridge and leave for at least thirty minutes. I wasn't sure if I should use the two remaining portions of butter up in one go, or if the pastry needed to be folded into a parcel again. I decided to use one portion of butter then wrap as a parcel. I rolled the pastry into an oblong, added the last portion of butter, folded it into a parcel and then wrapped in cling film for the fridge.

I ended up leaving the pastry in the fridge for almost an hour; I got distracted by the ‘Formula One’ race Neil was engrossed in! The next task was to make up the filling. This was easy - I like easy! I added some muscovado sugar, currants, peel and spice to my softened butter. It took only seconds to mix it all together; it smelled heavenly. I found a saucer of the required six inch diameter. It was easy to roll out the pastry the first time, but after that it became rather sticky and liked to weld itself onto my rolling pin. I had to place a tablespoon of my spiced mixture into the middle of each of the eight circles, and then bring the edges together to enclose the filling. I used my rolling pin to flatten the cakes; this also made the currants show through the pastry. I brushed each with egg white and sprinkled with sugar. Into the oven my little cakes went.

I found my cakes took a little longer than the suggested time of 10 to 15 minutes; mine were just over 20 minutes. They looked so yummy when they came out of the oven, but we controlled our greediness and left them to cool.

When we finally got to try one we both agreed it was worth the wait. I honestly think these are the nicest thing I have baked so far. I have never been fussed by Eccles cakes before, but now I love them! We ended up having a second straight after the first. I am so pleased with the flaky pastry, it was so light and the filling had just the right about of spice and fruit. This recipe is almost perfect but I feel the paragraph of unclear instructions did let it down a little. These Eccles Cakes may take a while to make, but are so worth it – YUM!
Not that pretty - but VERY tasty!!

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