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!