Saturday, 16 March 2019

A Yorkshire Cook and her Portugal Cakes

Portugal cakes 
Elizabeth Moxon is believed to have been the first Yorkshire woman to write and publish a cookery book. Entitled ‘English Housewifry’ and dating back to 1741, the book received a well deserved blue plaque in Pontefract in March 2019 as part of the ‘ 'Forgotten Women of Wakefield' project, following the hard work of Dream Time Creative team and the support of the Pontefract Civic Society. Featuring several hundred recipes, it proved very popular and ran to several editions over the next hundred years. Elizabeth has been described as trailblazer in English culinary writing and her book is thought to have paved the way for contemporary cookery authors such as Hannah Glasse in 1747. 
Intrigued by this Georgian cookery writer, I couldn’t wait to try out her recipes for my talk on Popular Georgian baking in Wakefield Library earlier in the month. I chose Portugal cakes. They are quite like French madeleines and Queen cakes. I used half the ingredients she states and this made around 3 dozen small cakes. I've suggested temperatures and timings for a modern oven.
Portugal cakes
½ lb/450g butter
4 eggs (use 4 yolks and 2 whites)
½ lb/450g plain flour
½ lb/450g caster sugar
½ lb/450g currants
2 tsps nutmeg
Caraway seed (optional)

Preheat the oven to 190C degrees and line trays with bun cases. Melt the butter gently over a low heat. Remove from the heat and pour into a mixing bowl. Add the eggs. Beat until frothy. Add the flour, sugar and currants and mix to form a batter. Spoon the batter into the bun cakes, filling them to two thirds. If you wish, sprinkle a few carraway seeds on top of each bun. Bake for around 14 to 16 minutes, until firm and golden brown. Let them cool in the tins for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool.

Here’s Elizabeth’s original recipe from her book which has been on display in Pontefract Library :
Extract from English Housewifery by Elizabeth Moxon

246. _To make_ PORTUGAL CAKES.
Take a pound of flour, a pound of butter, a pound of sugar, a pound of currans well cleaned, and a nutmeg grated; take half of the flour and mix it with sugar and nutmeg, melt the butter and put it into the yolks
of eight eggs very well beat, and only four of the whites, and as the froth rises put it into the flour, and do so till all is in; then beat it together, still strowing some of the other half of the flour, and then beat it till all the flour be in, then butter the pans and fill them, but do not bake them too much; you may ice them if you please, or you may strow carraway comfits of all sorts on them when they go into the oven. The currans must be plump'd in warm water, and dried before the fire, then put them into your cakes.
Guests at the unveiling of the Blue Plaque ceremony, tasted the delights of other Georgian baking from Elizabeth Moxon's book: Gingerbread, Cracknell biscuits and Seed cake. It was a great privilege to attend the commemorations for this enigmatic cookery writer.  

Saturday, 23 February 2019

Coffee time with a spicy Date biscuit

I tried this recipe from Sandra for Date and Spice biscuits out on some friends who came for coffee recently. Ginger is one of my favourite spices and it was a great way to use up the chopped dates I’d got in the cupboard.

Date and Spice Biscuits
5oz/150g chopped dates
2oz/50g brown sugar
2oz/50g treacle or golden syrup
4oz/110g butter
1 egg
6oz/175g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsps ground ginger
A few sesame seeds (optional)

Preheat the oven to around 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper. If the dates look dry, place them in a bowl and soak in boiling water for about 5 minutes and then drain. Beat the sugar, treacle (or golden syrup), butter and egg together in a bowl. Add the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and ginger and mix well.  Add the dates and leave the mixture to chill for 20-30 minutes. Divide the mixture into about 20 biscuits (about the size of a walnut) and place on the baking tray. Press each one to flatten out. Bake for around 15 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool.
Meryl says : To add a bit of interest, roll each biscuit in sesame seeds prior to baking.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Sydney Cake brings a welcome sparkle

It is said that Sydney is the city of fireworks and the Sydney Harbour Bridge the first place we see sparkling with fireworks on New Year’s Eve. So Sydney Cake is today's cake of choice. It's an old recipe from Ada Kirk, a distant relative in our family. During WW2, the family was fortunate to receive food parcels from relatives in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. These parcels sometimes contained copious quantities of dried fruits which were highly prized as dried fruit was rationed from 1942.
Sydney Cake
½ lb/225g self raising flour
¼ lb/110g sugar
¾ lb/340g mixed fruit
2 eggs
¼ lb/110g butter melted
¼ tsp mixed spice
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
1 bare teacup milk
Pinch salt
Vanilla or lemon extract
 Pre heat the oven to 150C/300F/Mark 2. Put all ingredients in order given into a basin. Beat for 4-5 minutes. Turn into a prepared tin. Bake in a slow oven for 2 hours on the lowest runner of the oven.

Meryl says : I used an 8 inch/21 cms square cake tin which worked well. I did reduce the cooking time to one hour and a half as it appeared baked and the cake tester came out clean. 
Sometimes the family received a cake already made or they were sent butter in a tin. The downside was that the butter had to be used fairly quickly once the tin was opened. The upside was they could have a bake off bonzana! 
Meanwhile in London  ...Happy New Year 2019!

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Get Festive with Orange & Cranberry Cake

This is a very simple recipe for a seasonal Orange and Cranberry Cake adorned with glazed fruit to enjoy at Christmas. Get ahead and freeze the cake prior to decoration. You can also make it with fresh cranberries and use pistachios to decorate. I can guarantee there won’t be a piece left!
What you need …
For the cake
8oz/225g butter
7oz/225g caster sugar
Zest of 1 orange
4 eggs (beaten)
8oz/225g self raising flour
2oz/50g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
5oz/150g cranberries (dried)
20z/50g mixed peel
How to bake …
Pre heat the oven to 180C (Fan 160c)/Mark 4/350F. Cream the butter, caster sugar and orange zest until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs. Fold in the flour,baking powder and ground almonds. Fold the cranberries and mixed peel. Place the mixture in a well greased Bundt or Kugelhoph tin or a lined round 8 inch/24 cms cake tin. Bake in the oven for around 45 minutes. Leave to cool for 10-15 minutes before turning out.
For the topping …
150g icing sugar
Juice of ½ orange
Glazed fruits
Put the icing sugar in a small bowl and add the orange juice. Spoon the icing over the cake. Allow to set for 10 minutes then decorate with glazed fruits.
Whatever you are doing and wherever you are at Christmas, I wish you a very Happy Christmas Baking season! 

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Yorkshire Moggie Cake knows how to purr..

Yorkshire Moggy Cake is a bit like our famous Yorkshire Parkin but lighter in texture. It’s not a Yorkshire breed of cat but it's thought the name Moggy or Moggie may be from Old Norse 'múgi' meaning ‘flour’ or ‘corn’. 
What you need …
50g/2oz butter
2 tbsps golden syrup
4 tbsps black treacle
4 tbsps (golden) caster sugar
250g/9oz plain flour
1tsp baking powder
3 tsps ground ginger
1 egg
150ml/5fl oz milk 
A square or round 21cm/8 inch cake tin lined with baking paper.
How to bake …
Preheat the oven to 160ºC/gas 3. Melt the butter, golden syrup, treacle and sugar gently in a pan. Sieve the flour, baking powder and ginger into a bowl. Stir the melted mixture into the dry ingredients. Beat the egg and milk together and add gradually until all is incorporated. Pour into prepared tin and bake for around 50 minutes until golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the cake comes out clean.
Meryl says : If you can wait 3 or 4 days, the cake becomes sticky like Parkin and well worth it. What do you think? 

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Gateau Basque proves a popular choice

I came across le Gateau Basque whilst staying in a small village  called Sare in the Pyrenees Atlantiques, just inland from St Jean de Luz and Biarritz. These traditional cakes are very popular with locals who come and stock up for a family get together and are standard fare on the dessert menu at the hotels in the area. 
The cake is made up by mixing up a butter and sugar pastry dough or ‘pâte sablée’ with a choice of fillings of almond or vanilla crème patissier or a local black cherry jam preserve. In some ways it's similar to our Bakewell Tart and makes a simple but stunning dessert served with custard (crème anglaise) or crème fraiche. 
Get the recipe for Gateau Basque in French 
Recipe for Le Gateau Basque
200g butter
6 egg yolks + 3 whole eggs
320g caster sugar
450g plain flour
1 sachet (7g) baking powder
½ tsp salt
500ml milk
2 tbsps golden rum
1 vanilla pod

Preheat the oven to 180C, Mark 5, 350F.

For the pastry dough
Put 100g butter (cut into small pieces), 200g caster sugar and the salt into a bowl. Rub in well and then incorporate 4 egg yolks and 2 eggs. Work to a smooth (not sticky) dough. Sift 400g flour and baking powder together and mix into the dough, forming a ball. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes minimum.
For the filling

Pour the milk and vanilla pod into a pan. (Tip : Rinse the pan beforehand with water to prevent the milk from sticking). In a bowl, beat 120g caster sugar, 2 yolks and the remaining egg until it is frothy. Bring the milk and vanilla pod to the boil and then remove the vanilla pod. Remove from the heat and then gradually pour half of this onto the egg mixture, stirring all the time. Then pour this mixture onto the remaining milk in the pan and heat gently, again stirring all the time until the mixture becomes thick. Remove from the heat and add the rum. Cover with clingfilm and allow to cool at room temperature.

To assemble the Gateau Basque
Roll out the dough to about ½ cm (¼ inch) thick and cut 2 circles to the size of the 20 cm/8 inch tart/flan dish. Place the first circle in the dish and pour the filling to 2 cms from the edge of the dish. Lay the second pastry circle over the top. Brush with beaten egg and make a pattern with fork prongs over the top. Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes until the Gateau is a golden colour. Allow to cool before serving. (Tip : It tastes better the following day if you can wait!)
Meryl says : I discovered that there is a Fete du Gateau Basque at Cambo les Bains every October where local pâtissière, Marianne Hyrigoyen invented the original recipe in the 1830s. You can visit the Gateau Basque Museum in Sare to learn how to bake this gorgeous cake.  
Bon appetit !   On egin !

Monday, 18 June 2018

Bilberries or blueberries - take your pick!

I discovered  La Tourte aux Myrtilles (bilberries) during a stay in the Pyrenees. It’s a delicious cake which we were offered at breakfast by Muriel at Maison Darrouy.  You’ll need a charlotte mousse or brioche style cake tin to achieve the same cake shape but you can bake it in a loaf tin. I tried several recipes as Muriel suggested to suit our taste with less sugar.
La Tourte aux Myrtilles
150g/5oz butter
3 eggs
75ml milk
130g/4½oz caster sugar
225g/8oz self raising flour (or plain with 1 tsp baking powder)
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp rum (optional or adjust to your taste)
200g/7oz bilberries/blueberries or blackberries
2 dsps demerara sugar for topping (optional)

Pre heat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3. Butter and flour the cake tin and place in the fridge. Melt the butter gently in a pan. Separate the yolks from the whites of the eggs. Whisk the yolks with the melted butter and the sugar until the mixture thickens. Gradually add the milk. Fold in the flour, vanilla extract and rum (if used).  Whisk up the whites of eggs and incorporate them gently. Finally mix in the fruit gently. Pour into the cake tin and sprinkle with demerara sugar if used. Bake for about 1 hour until a cake tester inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool then turn out.
Meryl says : I remember eating wild bilberries when I was young but they are not easy to find in the wild as the season is short. So, although La Tourte aux Myrtilles is usually made with (wild) bilberries, you can take your pick of blueberries, blackberries. Can you tell the difference between bilberries or blueberries?

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Snow Cake on a spring evening

Here’s the final recipe from Cusworth Hall's recent Museums at Night event. It was a fine late Spring evening with no snow in sight other than Snow Cake another recipe from my Grandma’s old recipe books called The Best Way. 
Snow Cake
110g/4oz arrowroot (cornflour)
110g/4oz plain flour
110g/4oz butter
50g/2oz ground rice
110g/4oz caster sugar
2 eggs (beaten)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Lemon extract
2 tbsps milk

Pre heat the oven Mark 4, 350F, 180C. Cream the butter, caster sugar until pale and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs. Mix in the arrowroot (cormflour), flour, ground rice, bicarbonate of soda and a few drops of lemon extract. Add enough milk to soften the mixture. Grease a 7 inch/ 18cms cake tin. Bake in a moderate oven for 30-40 minutes until risen and firm on top.

Meryl says : This cake is very similar to a recipe for Ground Rice cake from Grandma’s collection. Ground rice gives a cake a grainy texture so it’s not a soft sponge like Victoria Sandwich.  Since it already has a hint of lemon flavour, it would be good to serve with homemade lemon curd or raspberry jam.

Here are all the recipes from the Museums at Night event.

You’ve heard of wine tasting but cake tasting is just as much fun! What’s your take on Snow Cake?

Monday, 28 May 2018

Make it special with this French Gingerbread

Cake tasting at Cusworth Hall's Museums at Night event continued with a French take on gingerbread during the time of Queen Victoria. The recipe came from one of my Grandma’s old recipe books called The Best Way.
Special French Gingerbread
450g/1lb plain flour
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp mixed spice
50g/2 oz soft brown sugar
340g/12oz (black) treacle
2 eggs (beaten)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tbsps warmed milk

Pre heat the oven Mark 2, 300F, 150C. Mix the spices in the flour. Warm the treacle and the sugar in a pan until the sugar is dissolved. Gradually add the treacle and sugar mixture into the flour mixture. Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in the milk and add this and the eggs. Mix well. Grease a 9 inch/23cms square tin. Bake in a moderate oven for 45 minutes until firm on top.
Meryl says : It’s a very dense gingerbread but once the visitors got used to the texture, the majority loved the spicy taste of the ginger. 
I’ve one more recipe to complete the ones I baked so keep a look out. You’ll find the other recipes from Cusworth Hall's #MuseumsatNight by clicking on the links below.

It’s all about tasting something new today, even if these recipes were all the rage over 120 years ago! What do you think?

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Cake tasting at Cusworth's Museums at Night

Visitors to Cusworth Hall's recent Museums at Night event had the chance to taste some of Queen Victoria’s favourite cakes including the cake named in her honour 
I baked some lesser known ones but popular at the time. I reminded visitors that Queen Victoria had a very European family including her husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg so it was quite natural to see the European links.
I adapted a recipe for Coburg Cake from one of Grandma’s old recipe books called The Best Way. It’s a simple cake made with golden syrup and flavoured with cinnamon and ginger spices. 
Coburg Cake
75g/3oz butter
75g/3 oz caster sugar
2 eggs (beaten)
3 dsps golden syrup
175g/6 oz plain flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
½ oz/12 g baking powder
2 dsps milk to mix

Pre heat the oven to Mark 4, 350F, 180C. Cream the butter and caster sugar until pale and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs and syrup. Mix in the flour, spices and baking powder. Add a little milk to soften the mixture. Grease an 8 inch/21cms cake tin. Bake in a moderate oven for 45 minutes until risen and firm on top. 
Meryl says : Coburg cakes can also be baked as small cakes or buns. I’ll be adding more of the recipes I baked at the event soon so keep watching out for my next post.