Welsh Cakes from a Vermont Kitchen

November 2nd, 2011 / Comments 5

welsh cakes Welsh Cakes from a Vermont KitchenWhen I returned on Thursday, from visiting my son in England, the trees were wearing white. I had missed most of the reds and golds of the fall foliage and was looking forward to getting back to Charles, Gracie and my friends. The only shopping I did in Brighton was at small, medium and large grocery stores and at a weekly farmers’ market in the center of the university campus. Welsh cakes, from the Marks & Spencer market in the Brighton train station, along with a bowl of stewed red plums and a pot of Earl Grey tea was my standard breakfast in England.

Aside from two packages of chocolate covered ginger cookies, two packages of Welsh cakes were the only souvenirs I brought home. After Charles and I had breakfast on Saturday there were only two Welsh cakes left.
My closest source of Welsh cakes involved a two-hour bus ride, a seven-hour plane ride, another two-hour bus ride and a five-minute taxi ride; I had to figure out how to make them. I began with the label. It listed wheat flour, sugar, currants, free range eggs, milk and baking powder. I did a bit of research, in cookbooks and on the Internet, and learned that traditional Welsh cakes are cooked on a griddle rather than baked in the oven. Here’s my recipe for ‘No Travel Necessary’ (Vermont) Welsh Cakes.

Welsh Cakes

I used a whisk to mix together two cups of all-purpose flour, one-third of a cup of granulated sugar, two and a half teaspoons of baking powder and one-quarter of a teaspoon of kosher salt. I grated one stick, half a cup, of unsalted cold butter into the flour mixture using the largest holes on a box grater. I used two knives to blend the shreds of butter with the flour mixture. When the mixture looked like coarse crumbs, I stirred in half a cup of currants and a quarter of a cup of minced dry cherries.

I used a fork to combine one whole egg and two tablespoons of whole milk in a small cup and then added it to the flour mixture. I had to add nearly two more tablespoons of milk to the mixture in order to create a dough. I kneaded the dough gently on a lightly floured board and then rolled it to a thickness of a quarter of an inch.

I used a two and a half inch round biscuit cutter and made fifteen cakes. I heated the griddle over low heat for ten minutes, added a generous teaspoon of butter and cooked the Welsh cakes, over medium low heat, for five minutes on each side, until they were golden brown but still soft in the center. I removed them from the griddle and immediately sprinkled them with vanilla sugar.

Charles and I had a second, smallish, breakfast of still-warm-from-the-griddle Welsh cakes and a cup of tea before we cleaned up the flour-dusted kitchen. Welsh cakes can be served warm or at room temperature, slathered with soft butter, spread with jam, accompanied with whipped cream and stewed plums or out of hand on the train that takes you from the station to the university.

I used a box grater because the butter was frozen and I didn’t want to use a food processor. If you prefer to use a food processor, start by whizzing all of the dry ingredients together, cut the butter into eight chunks and add it to the flour mixture and pulse it five times or until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Add the egg and then add milk slowly, while machine is running until dough begins to form a mass. It’s best to err on the side of too little rather than too much milk. Tip dough out onto a floured surface, add currants and cherries or dried fruit of your choice and knead it all together. Roll dough and cook the cut rounds on a griddle or place rounds on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake in a pre-heated 350º oven for about eight minutes, or until set, then turn them over and bake for eight minutes more.

Baked Welsh cakes will not be as brown as those cooked on a buttered griddle. Homemade Welsh cakes have a much lower carbon footprint than the ones from Marks & Spencer and are absolutely smashing with a steamy pot of tea. I’m planning on making them when Matthew comes to visit in December.

Click here to download and print an ingredients list and recipe.

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