Every time I talk to Mike, our conversations invariably turn to food. Separated by an ocean and sometimes by the English language, when I read Mike's recipe, it sounded strangely similar to something my mother made for cold Chicago nights, only without the "colorful" language.
Please welcome one of my favorite Brits, Mike Keyton.
DIY Eccles Cake
When Maria asked me to contribute I panicked. What could I write about that made my Christmas unique? We do much the same as everyone else, I thought. Perhaps make something up: the little known Monmouth custom of hopping to Midnight Mass, squirrel lurching, lying in dew-soaked grass looking for angels, or floating high on brandy scanning the grass for dew-soaked angels. None of it sounded all that convincing, and then I remembered the humble Eccles Cake.
|Photo by Sean Whitton|
Yes, it is named after the Lancashire town of Eccles and was first commercially sold in 1793 – for those who believe provenance aids digestion. For those who want to persuade their children to be adventurous the Eccles cake had various nicknames such as ‘Squashed Fly Cake’, Fly Pie’ or sometimes Fly’s Graveyard. Flys are optional but the name owes more to the appearance of the currents in the cake.
Why eat Eccles Cakes at Christmas? Well it is the easiest way to use up left over brown sugar and those surplus currants and peel from the Christmas cake you virtuous souls have just made - as well as making good use of any surplus pastry you might have in your freezer. And hot from the oven they’re fantastic. Beats mince pies hands down.
3oz of butter
5oz soft brown sugar
5 oz of currants
1 tsp of cinnamon
1 tsp of nutmeg
3 oz of chopped peel
Approximately 14oz of flaky pastry or alternatively short crust pastry*
Melt the butter in a small saucepan, take it off the heat, and stir in the filling ingredients. Leave to cool.
Roll out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll it out to an eighth of an inch thickness (3mm)
Cut the pastry into rounds using a three and a half inch cutter (8cm)
Put a teaspoon of filling onto each round, wet the edges, and fold into a small pasty shaped parcel.
Flatten a little if necessary and then fold the two pointy ends up to the centre. Pinch and seal well.
Next turn your pastry parcel over so the smooth side is on top and gently roll it to a quarter inch flatness (aprox) and pat into a round shape.
Place them all on a greased baking sheet and gash each cake diagonally three times with a sharp knife.
Sprinkle with milk and sugar and bake in a preheated oven gas mark 7 / 425 F / or 220 C for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Cool on a wire rack but eat warm!
*Eccles cakes are made with flaky pastry. But sixteen miles N.W of Eccles is the noble town of Chorley. The Chorley cake is exactly the same except that it uses short-crust rather than flaky pastry. Best news of all, is that neither Chorley nor Eccles cakes enjoy European Protected Status so they can be manufactured anywhere and still be labelled as ‘Eccles/Chorley’ cakes. You will put on some calories but be morally sound.
Quickie poll: What kind of desserts do you serve for Christmas? For me, it's cranberry cookies and pecan pie. It's the only time I throw calorie-counting out the window.
Don't forget, you can leave a comment on any previous DIY Christmas 2012 post for a chance to win the prize on that post. Who knows? You might get lucky.
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There are more great posts to come. All contests end December 21, 2012.