Friday, May 28, 2010

Old-Fashioned Eccles Cakes

As I alluded to before, I sort of have a thing for blogs. I was determined to find some other food blogs to read, and finally found one I really like. I've linked to it over there => Brown Eyed Baker. 

The nice thing about her blog is that she provides lots of recipes, so if you see something you really want to try, you can! Anyway, going through her archives, I noticed every month she was participating in something called Daring Bakers. They were a group of food bloggers and each month one participant challenged everyone to make the same recipe. They had the whole month to do it, and at the end of the month, they all posted about it. It seemed interesting, so I followed her link to the website, which it seems, has grown exponentially over the past couple of years. I read some more about it and decided it was something I want to try. So, I joined the Daring Kitchen. At the beginning of each month, I'll get a new recipe to bake. On the 27th (or maybe later depending on how much I decide to procrastinate) I will post my experience with the recipe. Some of the past recipes have included different pastries and breads, so it seems like it will be challenging but fun since I'll be "assigned" a recipe. I also think this will help expand my repertoire of recipes. I'll get my first assignment in June, so be on the look out for my first Daring post at the end of next month.

For now, let's focus on pastry, puff pastry to be specific. I absolutely love puff pastry, and although there is a recipe for it in my cookbook, given my losing streak over the past few weeks, I didn't want to take any chances. Instead, for this recipe, I just used store bought, which is perfectly delicious. These little cakes, as Dan said after he bit into one, are "very British." They originated in the town of Eccles (hence the name) and have a filling made of dried fruits which I've found to be very common in British cooking. 

Here are the ingredients:

demerara sugar, golden raisins, currants, lemon, orange, brown sugar, nutmeg, ground cloves, cinnamon, apples, and butter, eggs, and puff pastry (none of which are pictured because I forgot to take them out of the fridge)

The first instruction is to roll the puff pastry out so that it is 1/4 inch thick. I took mine out of the package expecting to have to roll it out, but happily found that a store bought sheet is exactly that thick. I took out the 3 sheets I needed and laid them on a baking sheet in the fridge to rest until I was ready to use them. 

 the other two sheets are underneath

In the meantime, I combined the golden raisins, currants, and some of the zest and juice of the orange and lemon.

I added the brown sugar and spices and mixed everything together.


I added the melted butter next, and beat the eggs together. I weighed out 75g of egg and added it to the fruit mixture, reserving the remaining egg for an egg wash.

I peeled and grated 2 apples and added it to the mix. 

The recipe also calls for candied mixed peel, but there is a note that this can be replaced by the same weight of golden or regular raisins. I actually couldn't find the mixed peel in the store, so I chose to replace it with more apple since raisins aren't my favorite.

At this point, I preheated the oven and took the pastry out of the fridge. Using a circle I measured and cut out from a paper plate, I cut 6 circles from the sheets of puff pastry. I had plenty of dough left over but mostly in the form of scraps from cutting the first 6 circles. I needed to re-roll it in order to get 6 more circles, which took quite a while and I started to worry I was working with the dough too much, which would make it heavy and tough. While I worked with the remaining dough, I put the already prepared circles back in the fridge to keep them cold. With all the circles cut out (and almost every scrap of dough used), I put the circles which I had cut last in the fridge while I started to fill the ones which had already been resting. 

The method used here is to fill each circle of pastry with the fruit filling, tuck the excess pastry around the filling to form a smooth, tight ball, and then place it smooth side up onto a baking sheet.

Although the recipe says to use a heaping tablespoon of filling in each circle, I used closer to 2 tablespoons. At first, I had a hard time forming the filled bundles so they sealed with no filling showing. The filling had a lot of liquid in it which kept squeezing out of the pastry as I tried to close it, and I couldn't find a way to keep each cake sealed shut. I also found I needed to add more filling to the first few so that I didn't have too much excess pastry on the bottom of each cake. 

Once I had the pastry mostly formed around the filling, I placed each cake on a parchment-lined baking sheet and sort of tucked the pastry to try to seal it a little tighter. By the time I started with number 6, I was getting the hang of it. The key was to put enough filling into each circle so that I needed to stretch the pastry slightly in order to close it. This worked really well, and I got the remaining 7 cakes filled and sealed without too much liquid leaking out.

Finally all 12 cakes were filled and ready. I had a little filling left over, but it was mostly liquid. I knew some of the first few I did weren't quite sealed, so when I read that I now had to pick up each one and dip the top into the demerara sugar*, I laughed. Because there was just no way I was going to be able to keep them nice and formed if I had to pick them up again. I went ahead and brushed the tops with the reserved egg and just sprinkled the top heavily with the sugar instead, which worked just fine. I made two small slits in the top of each cake, and put them into the oven. 

*Demerara sugar is granulated brown sugar which I found right in the baking aisle in my regular grocery store

The cakes baked for about 35-37 minutes, 10 minutes longer than the recipe instructed. The tops were nice and golden brown, but to be sure they were done, I gently lifted a few with a fork to be sure the underside of the pastry was cooked through. 

I had split the 12 cakes between 2 trays, one of which held all of my "early" attempts which hadn't quite sealed as well. The juice leaked out of these a little, not to mention it had dripped onto the parchment while I was making the bundles, and unfortunately (but not surprisingly) it burned in the oven.
This didn't have too much of an impact on the cakes, except for the bottoms:

 At least there's no filling showing!

Thankfully, the other tray held the more successfully wrapped cakes, which came out really well.

I took these off the baking sheets and left them to cool for about 30 minutes. I wanted them to be warm, but was cautious to eat them too soon since the filling would have been molten hot. They probably only needed about 20 minutes, but the pastry was still warm and the filling was perfectly edible. 

I took one bite and was in love. It was absolutely heavenly. The sweet, tender, crispy pastry was a perfect shell for the soft, sweet, tangy filling. Frankly, I think practically anything wrapped in puff pastry is 100% delicious, and these did not disappoint. As the chef, I of course took one of the less than perfect ones that had a slightly burned bottom, but even that didn't deter from how delicious it was. I thought I would be put off by the raisins and currants since I'm not a big fan of either, but they worked so well together with the citrus and spices. I didn't really taste any apple, but I suspect it gave the filling some added sweetness. The sugar on top added a nice crunch.  

I brought these over to Dan's parent's house for dinner the next day, but really wanted them to be warm when I served them. I used the same trick as with the Apple Dried Cherry Turnovers and just put them in the oven for a few minutes to warm through, which was perfect. Everyone really liked the spice combination and there were only a few crumbs left when we finished. 

The nice thing about these is that they're very versatile. I'm sure you could substitute the raisins and currents for dried blueberries or cherries, or maybe even figs, or a combination of fruit and preserves. Or dare I say...chocolate?

Next Indulgence: Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwiches


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