Thursday, February 20, 2014

Welsh Cakes: A Traditional Saint David's Day Treat

Saint David's Day is the feast day of the patron saint of Wales, a Celtic monk who spread the word of Christianity across Wales in the 6th century. Celebrated on the first of March every year, there can't be a Saint David's Day celebration without a plate of Welsh Cakes. Traditionally cooked over a hot bake stone, Welsh Cakes, or Bakestones as they were often called, are a cross between a scone and a small pancake, and can made from simple pantry items such as flour, sugar, milk and butter, in addition to currants, sultanas or raisins and spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. Rather than being baked like a scone, they're cooked like a pancake on a griddle, shaped into circles a couple of inches round and about half an inch thick. Served hot or cold dusted with fine sugar, Welsh Cakes are best enjoyed while they're still hot with lashings of butter! 

Welsh Cakes
Makes 16-20

9 oz all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 oz fruit sugar, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp mixed spice
4 oz cold unsalted butter, diced
1/8 tsp salt
3 oz currants, raisins or sultanas
1 medium egg, beaten
A splash of milk to bind, if needed

Sieve the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl, then add the sugar and mixed spice. Cut up the butter and add to the bowl with a pinch of salt. Using your hands, rub it all together into a fine breadcrumb consistency. Add the dried fruit, beaten egg, a splash of milk and mix together into a firm dough.

Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to about 3/4-inch thick. Using an glass or cookie cutter, cut the dough into 2 to 3-inch rounds and cook on a greased baking stone, griddle or non-stick pan over medium heat, about 2-3 minutes on both sides until golden brown. As they finish cooking, cool them on a wire rack and sprinkle with fine fruit sugar.

Serve warm with butter, or lightly whipped fresh cream and preserves. Welsh cakes are best eaten while hot but will keep for up to a week in an airtight container.