Tuesday, February 11, 2014

E is for Eccles Cakes

ABC Wednesday
The letter is E, which is an Elegant choice for the Eccles Cakes

Not exactly what you would call a cake - but rather a crisp, crumbling pie, reminiscent of mince pies but fresher and simpler in their ingredients.

A confection with a history!!!

In 1793 James Birch's shop on the corner of Vicarage Road and St. Mary's in Eccles began selling small, flat, raisin-filled cakes, and is the first person credited with selling these 'Eccles" cakes on a commercial basis, although there are traces of something similar to the Eccles cake in a cookery book entitled "The Experienced English Housekeeper" written by Mrs. Elizabeth Raffaid in 1769.

Whatever their true origin, Eccles cakes are now famous throughout the world, and for me they have special memories from my early childhood.  During the Depression days, (when I believe the fortitude of many of the generation which coped with those days evolved) Mrs. Clough, wife of the minister who shepherded the flock at St. Faith's Anglican Church, was famous for her Eccles cakes throughout the parish, and always a welcome visitor as she visited with a basket of these hearty and delicious morsels she had whipped up in her kitchen just that morning!

The recipe for Eccles cakes in my trusty British Baking Book calls for  a rough puff pastry made from 4 ozs of plain flour, a pinch of salt, 1 oz of chilled lard and 2 ozs of butter, a squeeze of lemon juice and 3-4 tablespoons of icy cold water, mixed in the traditional manner and chilled for 15 minutes in the refrigerator. 

Modern recipes make use of frozen puff pastry purchased from the super market.

Here is a modern recipe which I use; guaranteed to produce the same wonderful pastries that live in my memory....

2 tbsp. of butter
1 cup of dried currants
2 tbsps. of mixed candied fruit, chopped
3/4 cup of demerara sugar
3/4 tsp of mixed spices (nutmeg, etc)
1/2 pack of frozen puff pastry
I egg white
1/4 cup of sugar

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and sprinkle a baking sheet with some water.  In a small saucepan melt the butter, add the mixed peel, demerara sugar and the spices, mixing until the sugar is completely melted.

Prepare the puff pastry as directed and roll out into a flat circle, 1/4 inch thick.
Cut into fairly large circles and divide the fruit mixture between them.
Moisten the edge of each circle and pull it towards the center to make a pouch.
Turn over and press gently with a rolling pin to flatten the cakes
Brush each cake with egg white and white sugar, make parallel cuts in the top and bake for 15 minutes in the preheated oven - or until lightly browned around the edges.
Place on a wire rack and allow to cool.

 Eccles cakes are sometimes, with affection, referred to as 'dead fly pies', but don't let that deter you!

For more surprising interpretations of the letter E visit here, at ABC Wednesday, with thanks to Roger and Denise for this great meme.


photowannabe said...

Oh my, these sound delicious.
I'm not familiar with the sugar you posted. Is it a brand name or something about the product?

Roger Owen Green said...

My mailing address to send the pies is...


Leslie: said...

I absolutely love eccles cakes - they look big, but the pastry crumbles into almost nothing and the inside is dEElicious!

abcw team

uberrhund said...

Those look like wonderful treats indeed!
I love black currants but only get them in the form of jam here, not that there is anything wrong with jam!

The Weaver of Grass said...

One of my favourites too Hildred. Eccles is in Lancashire so not so very far from here. You can also buy Chorley cakes - Chorley is also in Lancashire and CHORLEY Cakes are like Eccles cakes except they are made with Shortcrust pastry so they are not quite as crumbly.

Rajesh said...

I would love to have it.

Reader Wil said...

Hi Hildred! I see that you must be an excellent cook! This looks delicious!
Thanks for your visit. Yes Captain Cook is also popular in Australia and New Zealand, which is not the case with the Dutch Abel Tasman.
Wil, ABCW Team.

Carver said...

Excellent post but my mouth won't stop watering. Yummy! Carver, ABC Wed. Team

Ann said...

Whoa these looks yummy.

Linda said...

It sounds wonderful, and it does look like a pie.

Powell River Books said...

Sounds yummy. I could have one right now with my tea. - Margy

Strawberry Jam Anne said...

Lovely, I have copied this recipe and will let you know how I get on. A x

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Yummmmm. I would love to try these sometime.

Indrani said...

Very tempting.