Recipe 136 – Eccles Cakes

11th January 2013

Pastry time again – but this time flaky pastry.  Reading through the recipe this was very similar to the ‘rough puff’ pastry I used to make when I was at school, many, many years ago.  I used to love making that pastry, so hopefully I would enjoy this too.

I took quite a lot of photos whilst making this recipe as I think flaky pastry (or anything similar) can be a little bit daunting, but it’s not, I find it very relaxing to make – in fact I’d rather make this sort of pastry than shortcrust any day!  This isn’t also a recipe for anybody who is on a diet or worried about their cholesterol – there’s a lot of butter in these cakes, but I think they’re well worth it!

It is quite a long recipe as you have to leave the pastry to chill for quite a while, so it’s not something you can quickly knock together and bake in half an hour or so.  So if you’re intending on making these, make sure you have a couple of hours free – or do as I did and baked something else during the ‘chilling’ parts of the recipe.

The first thing is to make the flaky pastry.  Into a bowl went 225g plain flour together with the butter.  175g is needed for this recipe, but you don’t put it all in to start with, you only put one quarter.  The butter had been cut into four equal parts and three of them had been put in a bowl to one side.  The remaining quarter was cut into very small cubes and added to the flour.  This was then rubbed in until the mixture resembled breadcrumbs.  A small squeeze of lemon juice was added to the mixture and 8 tbsp of water.  I must admit I did measure the water into a beaker as I though 8 tbsp seemed rather a lot – but it wasn’t and even though I added it gradually and gave the mixture a stir with a round bladed knife each time, I did need all of it for it to form a soft dough.

The dough was turned out onto a lightly floured board and kneaded gently until it was smooth.  This only took about a minute.  Now it was time for the fun part.  The dough was rolled out into an oblong – three times as long as it was wide.  One of the remaining quarters of butter was chopped up into tiny pieces and this was dotted all over the top two-thirds of the pastry.  The bottom third (which doesn’t have any butter on it) was folded up over the middle third and then the top third was folded carefully down.  The edges were pressed together with my hand to make sure they were sealed.  Easy – next the pastry was wrapped in clingfilm and popped in the fridge for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes the pastry was removed from the fridge and put on the floured board.  The folded edge of dough being placed on the left hand side.  Again the pastry was rolled out to an oblong – three times as long as it was wide.  Another quarter of butter was diced up finely and put on the top two thirds of the pastry.  It was then folded as above, wrapped in clingfilm and put in the fridge to chill for another 15 minutes.

Once more the pastry was removed from the fridge and the above process repeated again.  This time the pastry was popped back into the fridge for 30 minutes.

Whilst the pastry was chilling I made up the filling.  Into a bowl went 50g of softened butter, 50g muscovado sugar, 1/2 tsp mixed spice, 100g currants and 50g candied peel.  This was all mixed together.

The oven was put on to preheat and the pastry removed from the fridge.  Mary says to roll the pastry out thinly and cut into eight rounds of about 15cm (6″) diameter – the size of a saucer.  Now I don’t have a board big enough to cut out 8 circles in one go, so I decided to cut my pastry in half.  After cutting it in half I sealed the cut edge so that the butter didn’t come out when I rolled it.  The pastry was rolled out – it was lovely pastry to roll out, it doesn’t stick to the board or rolling pin however thin you roll it.  The saucer was placed on top and the circles cut out.    I did the same with the other half. I wasn’t sure whether you could re-roll the offcuts, but I wasn’t going to waste them so I made another two circles.

Then it was on with the fillings.  A tablespoon of the mixture was placed in the centre of each of the circles.  The pastry edges were brushed with water and then drawn together to enclose the filling.  These were turned over and flattened slightly with the rolling pin – just until you could see the currants.  Some had to be re-shaped as they were more of a square than a circle by now.

These were popped onto the baking trays.  Three small cuts were made in the top of each cake and they were brushed with beaten egg white.  The final thing was a good sprinkling of caster sugar and then into the oven they went for 10-15 minutes.  After 10 minutes I had a look – the cakes looked good, but butter was pouring out of the pastry onto the trays.  It was at this point I realised that the trays I had used were in fact baking sheets (3 slighly raised sides and one flat).   The butter had just got to the edge of each sheet and had started dripping down onto the bottom of the oven.  It wasn’t long before the smoke alarm started going off.  I quickly grabbed some kitchen roll and mopped the butter up from the base of the oven, before closing the doors for another 5 minutes.

By now the eccles cakes were baked and looked golden.  They were removed from the oven and left on the trays for a few minutes before being lifted onto a wire rack.

They looked quite rustic, but the pastry was so flaky – delicious.  Will I make them again – maybe – but if I do they will be put on ‘trays’ and not ‘sheets’ as my next job it to clean the bottom of my oven!



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