Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Christmas!

To any who celebrate Christmas, a happy one to you! and season's greetings to all!
When I was very young, we used to spend winter break with extended family from TX. We'd either make the long drive down to TX, or they would haul the entire clan up to IL. As we grew older, we took to the slopes -- Santa Fe, NM; Breckenridge, CO. Then we stopped spending the holidays together entirely as each of my cousins went off to college.

These days my parents' daily routine doesn't change much during the holidays. Christmas is a very important holiday for FH's family, however, so the past 5 years have found us flying to NJ for the holidays. This year is no different, except that FH has to work tonight. We'll be off on the 27th.

In the meantime, I decided I would finally try my hand at another amazing delicacy from across the pond: Welsh Cakes. Had them all of once, and they were VERY nice. Unfortunately, my skill with breads is basically 0 for 0, and continues to be so after today's attempt...(didn't have real butter on hand and had to go with margarine, despite knowing it was a bad idea...).

Welsh Cakes
[modified by flook from and Jamie Oliver]

Ingredients (Serves 24)

4 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, slightly softened
6 tablespoons lard
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 cups raisins
4 eggs
8 tablespoons milk

  1. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into bowl. Put in butter and lard and mix until resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in sugar and currants or raisins. Beat the eggs lightly and add to flour mixture with just enough milk (~2 tbsp) to make a firm dough similar to shortcrust pastry.
  2. Chill dough 1 to 2 hours. (Some recipes omit this step, but I did it since I had used margarine instead of real butter.)
  3. Roll the dough to 1/4 inch on floured surface (~1 cm thick) and cut with 3 inch rounds. Bake the cakes on a greased griddle or frying pan (I use my electric skillet with just a little non-stick spray) over low heat until golden brown (~4.5 min ea side). Cool and sprinkle with sugar. These also freeze well.
  4. Variations: Use all butter instead of part lard; form the dough into balls and press down to the appropriate thickness instead of rolling out and cutting the dough; add 1 tsp nutmeg; Jamie Oliver: Whip double cream and marble-in vanilla bean paste. Slice welsh cake in half, add dollop of cream + a few fresh berries and make a sandwich.
Notes: Do NOT substitute margarine or oil for the butter (though butter for lard is OK). Texture will be terrible. Don’t be afraid to flour very well -- the sides will brown more softly and evenly. About ½ cm thickness is good; it will puff up a little bit, and if it’s too thick it won’t cook through fully. I cut the sugar by ¼ cup and it was still quite sweet with only sprinkling caster sugar on one side. If you use the roll-and-pat method, pay attention to the edges of the cake otherwise it will look very uneven.

Still working out the ideal formula; will update with future attempts! Tips or advice are welcome, as always.

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