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Welsh cakes

Tuesday, 11th March 2014

welshcakes

WELSH cakes are wonderfully easy to make, positively delightful to eat and are perfect for a spot of afternoon tea with friends, especially as, unlike larger cakes, they travel well and do not need to be cut before they are served. If one wishes to bring cake to a social function as I often do, Welsh cakes are an ideal choice.

There is a slight catch to the ease of making, however, in that making really good Welsh cakes requires an old-fashioned cast iron bakestone, something with which few kitchens these days are equipped. Happily, it seems that they can be bought for relatively modest prices (less than £20), although I cannot vouch for how the modern variety compare with the traditional sort: my bakestone, together with the recipe that I am about to relate, was given to me by my Welsh grandmother, and is exceedingly heavy. For those without a bakestone, a heavy frying pan can be used (the heavier the better), although the Welsh cakes will not cook as evenly.

Ingredients

100g white caster sugar (plus a little for dusting);
100g butter (I recommend Lurpack salted) at room temperature;
230g self-raising (not sponge) flour;
75g currants (sultanas can be substituted, but only small sultanas should be used);
1tbsp powdered milk; and
1 large egg.

The ingredients can be doubled to produce a larger batch, which is useful for entertaining a number of people.

Method

  1. Prepare the bakestone: put it over the hob on a low temperature and coat with a thin layer of butter. If using a gas hob, it is advisable to raise it above the flame or else it will get too hot: I use a “SimmerMat“; my grandmother used egg cups. An induction hob can easily be used, as, of course, the bakestone is made of a ferrous metal, and this will give more control over the heat.
  2. Add the butter, sugar, flour and powdered milk to a large mixing bowl. Make sure to sift the flour into the bowl to obtain the best texture.
  3. Crumble the ingredients together thoroughly with the tips of the fingers to form a mixture with the consistency of fine breadcrumbs. Make sure that no chunks of butter remain. Doing this properly will take at least 5-10 minutes, if not more.  Needless to record that hands should be spotlessly clean for such an operation. (A remedy for forgetting to take the butter out of the refrigerator on time is to squeeze the chunks of it in one’s hands until it emerges through the gaps between the fingers; doing this several times will melt the butter quickly but gently and make it much easier to combine).
  4. Crack the egg into a jug, and beat it very gently with a hand beater or fork until the yolk is more or less combined with the white.
  5. Add the egg and the currants to the dry mix and combine thoroughly until a pastry like consistency is achieved.  It is easier to use an electric mixer, but, if this is done, a slow speed should be used.
  6. Roll out the mixture to a thickness of 1-2cm and cut into medium sized rounds (see the picture above for an idea of size).
  7. Test a small part of the mixture on the surface of the bakestone. If, after 3 minutes, the surface touching the bakestone is golden brown, the bakestone is at the right temperature. If it is dark brown, it is too hot; if it is a beige colour, it is too cool. Adjust the temperature and repeat the procedure until the temperature is correct.
  8. Lay out as many rounds as will fit on the bakestone and cook three minutes on each side before setting aside, then repeat for any remaining uncooked rounds.  If using a gas or electric hob, use only the outside of the bakestone, as the centre will be much hotter. If using an induction hob or old-fashioned range, the bakestone should be at a more even temperature and this difficulty will not arise, in which case it will be possible to cook more rounds at once.
  9. Let the Welsh cakes cool for 1-2 hours (there is no need to use a wire rack), then sprinkle with caster sugar to serve. Some people prefer to spread butter on them, or even raspberry jam, but a well made Welsh cake needs no assistance from either of these substances, so I recommend sprinkling only with sugar (which also gives a much more appealing appearance).
  10. They can be eaten fresh (after they have cooled) or kept for up to 5 days in an airtight container. They also freeze well, but great care should be taken if defrosting in a microwave, as they will overheat very easily.
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