Monday, August 25, 2008

Eccles Cakes!!

I grew up eating Eccles cakes which are not actually cakes but more like flattened mincemeat pies with less filling and more pastry...they are indeed a Northern English delicacy named after the town where they were first baked and their flavour is very reminiscent of a British Christmas. If you don't like dried fruit run away now! Traditionally Eccles cakes are made with flaky pastry but I was too lazy to try my hand at that and ended up using a lovely sweet shortcrust pastry recipe I found in one of my trusty old-fashioned English cookbooks. I have found a wonderful resource for conversion charts from UK to US measurements and also a list of Brit cookery names and terms used on the other side of the Pond at Sue Pallett's website, she has kindly allowed me to feature a link to the site on this blog...thank you Sue!
In the first picture above you see my balance weighing scales, without which I wouldn't be able to bake my British recipes, and the indispensible micro-plane that works like a dream for shaving the zest from lemons and oranges.
Here is the recipe:
8oz unbleached flour
1/2 level teaspoon of salt
5oz butter that has been in the freezer for about 15 minutes
1 egg yolk
1oz fine/castor sugar
3 teaspoons of water
1. Mix the flour and salt in a mixing bowl...(is that why they call it a mixing bowl?)
2. Grate butter into the mix...coat the butter in flour before you grate it to make the process easy, then rub the grated butter into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs...have you guessed by now I do all my baking by hand and don't use machines?...what a pure flower I am.
3. Mix together egg yolk, sugar and water in a seperate bowl...also a mixing bowl perchance?
4. Make a well in the middle of the butter/flour mix, add the liquid mix and blend gently to a firm dough.
As you all know you should keep your hands as cold as possible during the pastry making as pastry dough is very fussy and doesn't like warm hands and will not behave properly if it gets warm in any way!!!
Now the dough is tired and should be left to rest in the fridge until it regains it's strength ready for the next part of the process, a good 20 minutes in the fridge should do the trick.
1/2lb of currants, sultanas, raisins mixed
2oz finely grated orange and lemon zest (I made the mistake of using chopped peel and my teeth haven't recovered yet, it doesn't soften well in this mix so use the real thing)
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg and allspice together
4oz any kind of sugar
2oz butter
1. Put all the above ingredients into a pan and warm through til butter melts then transfer to a bowl (a mixing bowl?) to cool.
2. Roll out pastry to less than 1/4" thick, I made mine too thick and the cakes were more pastry than filling and it should be the other way around.
3. Cut into 6', no no...6" rounds.
4. Place a good tablespoon of mix in centre, you'll know if you have put too much in 'cos the next step won't work so well...
5. Fold the excess up and over the filling...see above photo...and sqwush the edges til there are no escape holes for the filling to ooze from...this pastry is very malleable so this is easy to do.
6. Turn the 'cake' over and flatten slightly as picture above, slice three lines in the top of each cake to let the steam out whilst cooking or the little beggars will explode...explode may not be the right word but they may split...
7. Wash cakes with a little milk and sprinkle with sugar for fairy dust look.
8. Stick them in a 400F oven for about 20 minutes and Bob's your've got yourself some Eccles cakes, also known as Banbury cakes, and Chorley cakes, and Hawkshead cakes and Coventry Godcakes...similar cakes, different shapes impostors all as the Eccles cake is the original and that's that!
As you can see above I made myself a nice spot of Kenyan Bop tea, good and strong, and the Eccles cakes were soon a thing only of pleasant memory.
Happy Baking and let me know how you faired...ta ta!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Another kitty on Cafe Press

Here is the second cat illustration to go on my Cafe Press store, it is a Silver Tabby as all you crazy cat lovers out there already know. It is available on t-shirts, mugs, a tote bag etc.....go take a look and treat yourself to something feline!

I think it's time for another recipe, don't you?...check back in a couple of days for something terribly British in the dessert department. I have a couple of wonderful old English recipes books so I shall peruse them on your behalf and come up with something divine you may have never heard of before...til then I will enjoy the unusual glow in the sky here that in other regions of the country is known as the is due to rain here in Maine YET AGAIN tomorrow evening at which point I may, indeed, completely lose the few marbles I have left!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Exhausted but elated!!

Well James and I managed to place his three metal sculptures at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens and here are pics of them in situ as I promised in my last posting. The locations of the three pieces are really great thanks to the foresight of Suzette McAvoy, the show's curator. Have to admit we nearly gave ourselves hernia's placing "Leap, run, leaping" (top photograph) atop the grassy knoll and we were absolutely knackered by the time we were finished, but all is worthwhile in the name of art.........isn't it??? Hope you get the chance to see the sculptures at the gardens, their colours work really well in their respective sites...the red is amazing against the green vegetation, James choose the colour which is the exact complementary opposite wavelength of the green leaves to make the sculptures "jazz" and the blue of "Girl Facing North East" (bottom photograph) is a beautiful complement to the lovely light mushroom of the building trim. Well done James! Now go take a nap!