It’s been far too long. I have missed you! Happy New Year and I hope 2014 has gotten off to a fantastic start for you!
As with most chefs in the world, especially pastry chefs sweeties, the festive time is our busiest and most profitable time of the year. More than once this year, slaving over a tray of hot mince pies and figgy pudding, I have asked myself why I chose this labour of love as my career, working while everyone else is enjoying themselves, don’t you just feel sorry for me! J Anyway daahlings the up side is as everyone was returning to work with their new year’s resolutions and extra kilos, I hung up the apron for a few days and escaped to the beach!
I do love Christmas - the decorations, the lights and all the wonderful food, families and friends gathering!
At Christmas we use a lot of dried fruits in pastry recipes and this always brings back happy memories of my childhood baking with Mum on Sunday mornings at home, making her rich fruit cake to be doused with cherry brandy and packed away for marzipanning and icing nearer Christmas and soaking the fruits for the Christmas puddings.
Another favourite all year round was Eccles cakes and these were one of the first pastries I learnt to make with mum. They're rich puff pastry filled with spiced fruits and butter and then baked. They're delicious with morning coffee or afternoon tea and even more so with a dollop of clotted cream on top (then again, any pastry with a dollop of clotted cream on top tastes better, don’t forget).
Eccles cakes are named after the English town of Eccles. It is not known who invented the recipe, but James Birch is credited with being the first person to sell Eccles cakes on a commercial basis, which he sold from his shop at the corner of Vicarage Road and St Mary's Road (now known as Church Street) in the town centre, in 1793!
Nicknames for the Eccles cake include Squashed Fly Cake, Fly Cake, Fly Pie or even a Fly's Graveyard, owing to the appearance of the currants that it contains. Eccles cakes do not currently have Protected Geographical Status, so may be manufactured anywhere and still labeled as "Eccles" cakes!
Eccles cakes are simple to make and great to do with the kids, as I did with Mum. I am sure little ones will be amused for at least an hour before they go back to the TV or iPads!
To make Eccles Cakes you will need:
75 grams butter
150 grams brown sugar
25 grams candied lemon peel25 grams candied orange peel
150 grams dried Blackcurrants
5 grams cinnamon
5 grams mixed spice
1 orange zest and juice
Puff pastry (readymade and rolled readymade is acceptable)
Flour for dusting
Milk for sealing and glazing
Sugar and icing sugar
1. For the filling, melt the butter over a low heat or in the microwave. Once melted, stir in all of the remaining filling ingredients until well combined. Set aside to cool.
2. Preheat the oven to 220C/Gas 7.
3. For the pastry, roll out the pastry on a lightly floured work surface to a thickness of about 3mm/⅛in. Using a 9cm/3½in cutter, cut the pastry into rounds.
4. Place a teaspoon of the filling in the middle of each round, then brush the edges of half the pastry with milk. Bring the other half of the pastry over and seal. Bring the corners of the pastry up into the middle and pinch to seal.
5. Place on a tray and leave in the fridge to rest for 15 minutes or so.
6. Turn the sealed pastry parcel over, so that the seam is underneath, and then gently roll out until it is about ½cm/¼in thick. Gently pat back into a round shape and place onto a greased or silicone lined baking tray.
7. Cut each cake across three times using the tip of a sharp knife. Brush the cakes with milk and sprinkle with sugar.
8. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the pastry is golden-brown and puffed up. Transfer the cakes to a wire rack to cool.
9. Dust the Eccles cakes with icing sugar before serving.
Eccles cakes store well and are great as a snack for the kids with a glass of milk!