Friday, 8 February 2013

Not just for the Welsh folk...

I was dragged up in Wales in an area where nobody ate welsh cakes and virtually nobody spoke welsh. My best mate at school was related to just about everyone, frequently I would hear him say "no chance, she is my cousin as well!" His dad was a baker, he didn't make welsh cakes either. The costal seafood was both prolific and fantastic. There was no fishmonger. I left as soon as I passed my bike test. 

Granddad had stayed in London. We visited him occasionally at his flat in the cheap seats in Dulwich, a stones throw from the train station and the bright lights of the city centre. Why had we moved. He used to get the train to our local train station a mere thirty miles away. Either dad or my auntie would pick him up. I would always always have a batch of welsh cakes cooking on the electric griddle for his arrival. Enough to last his whole stay and be the preferred choice for suppa with a cuppa. Its quite ironic that thirty five years on he lives there and I am (nearly) on my way to London, all be it just for the spring.

As usual I digress. I love welsh cakes and appreciate the versatility of how they can be cooked. I haven't got a griddle but I have got a thick frying pan type insert from our Cobb BBQ. It cooks welsh cakes well on a hob, just about ok on the wood burner (you have to keep turning it to keep the heat even) and of course fantastically on the Cobb after the heat has died down a bit. Welsh cakes are best eaten straight from the griddle but it you can't manage the whole batch in one go, warming them directly on top of the stove and scoffing with a knob of butter on top is a good alternative. 

So how do you make them. Most patisserie recipes are quite complex and ingredient weights and methods are nothing short of alchemy, my style is more a considered approach but using recipes as a guide only so most of my sweet tooth cooking is quick and easy. For welsh cakes and most pastry type items I use a mini blender. The type that also has an attachment for blending soup or smoothies and sometimes a whisk. Ready?

8oz of self raising flour, 4oz of butter, stork or what ever you've got and 3oz of sugar (ideally caster sugar, but I use straight granulated) goes into the blender for a quick blitz to bread crumb texture. Pour this lot into a mixing bowl and add about 3oz of currants or sultanas. Make a bit of a well in the middle and crack an egg into it. Give the egg a bit of a mix (you can mix the egg in a separate bowl if you really like washing up) using the same fork start mixing the egg and flour mix together. It is going to be a bit dry so add the odd splash of milk to get to a pastry consistency. Don't over do the milk or you'll have a big sticky mess. If in doubt just use a little milk and give it a few minutes to absorb, if its still too dry add a little more. As long as its not a hot day you can roll out the pastry straight away, if it is warm cool it in the fridge first. Roll to about a quarter of an inch thick (they are better too thick than too thin) and cut circles with a cutter or glass arraying them overlapping on a plate or piece of baking parchment. 

A medium to low heat is needed for griddling the welsh cakes. Very lightly grease a non stick griddle and cook for a few minutes each side. The raising agent in the flour will puff them up slightly. Once the first side has browned to a light golden colour it is safe to carefully turn them with a palate knife. With the second side cooking you can gently push the cooked top, if there is still any movement between the two surfaces they are not quite done, but nearly there so get the kettle on!

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