Tuesday 29 August 2017

Shrewsbury Biscuits are a 21st century hit

This is another recipe in the series of Georgian baking to mark 300 years following the birth of James Paine, architect of The Mansion House in Doncaster. Shrewsbury Biscuits or Cakes which are named after the town of Shrewsbury in Shropshire UK are very familiar today. In Shrewsbury Castle Foregate there is a plaque referring to Mr Palin’s unique recipe in 1760. Throughout its history, nutmeg, caraway and coriander seeds have featured amongst the ingredients. These spices and others, such as cardamom, cloves and ginger were used extensively in traditional baking to enhance the flavour of cakes and biscuits (and reduce the need for sugar!).

I’ve adapted a recipe for these biscuits from the 1826 The Cook and Housewife’s Manual by Mistress Margaret Dods. 
Beat half a of cold butter to a cream, and mix with it six ounces of sifted sugar, eight ounces of flour, some pounded cinnamon, two eggs beat, add a little rose water. Roll out the paste a quarter of an inch in thickness, adding a little more flour if necessary, and stamp out the cakes of any shape or size that is liked.

Here’s Grandma Abson's recipe 
110g/4oz butter
75g/3oz sugar
200g/7oz flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 egg beaten 1 tsp rosewater
50g/2oz currants

Pre heat the oven to 180C or 160C fan. Rub the flour and butter together to resemble fine breadcrumbs. Add the sugar, rosewater and the beaten egg. (Add the currants to the mixture at this point). Mix to a dough, and leave to chill for half an hour. Roll out to ¼ inch/0.4cm thick, and cut out the biscuits. Bake for 12 minutes or until golden-brown.
It's fascinating that we still enjoy these recipes from the past. Shrewsbury Biscuits certainly proved to be a 21st century hit with the visitors. Did you know it was such an old recipe.

Wednesday 16 August 2017

Georgian Seed Cake stands the test of time

Georgian celebration events at Cusworth Hall bring a Georgian Family day with activities for everyone to enjoy. In the Great Kitchen, I prepared baking recipes from the Georgian and Regency era for visitors to sample. Seed Cake was very popular. This recipe from The Universal Cook written in 1806 by Francis Collingwood & John Woollams, principal cooks at the Crown and Anchor Tavern in the Strand, proves that good recipes can stand the test of time.
I’ve adapted the old recipe for modern ovens. Georgian bakers would use a Hoop which is a round metal band without a top or a bottom but nowadays, an ordinary cake or loaf tin would be fine.
Seed Cake
225g/8 oz butter
225g/8 oz sugar
3 eggs (beaten)
225g/8oz plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice
3 tsps caraway seed
1 tbsp ground almonds
Pinch of salt
A little milk to mix 
1 tbsp demerara sugar for topping (optional)

Preheat the oven to Mark 3, 170C. Grease and line an 21cm/8 inch cake tin. Cream the butter and fat with the sugar. Add the eggs gradually. Mix the flours, baking powder, mixed spice, salt and caraway seed together. Fold these into the creamed mixture. Add a little milk to give a soft consistency. Pour into the cake tin and sprinkle demerara sugar on the top if desired. Bake in a slow oven for about one and a half hours. 
It’s the caraway seed with its distinctive anise taste which divides everyone on taste. Where do you stand on caraway seed – love it or hate it?