So having spent the weekend up to my ears in dried fruit making Christmas cakes, puddings and mincemeat – all treats for another too distant day – it was perhaps inevitable I would make these. Especially as I’d just made a batch of my own mixed spice and felt the strong urge make something which I could eat right away and showcase the festive aromas to their best advantage. Christmas Welshcakes were dreamt up and ushered forth.
Recently, I popped into a local shop for a couple of bits I’d forgotten from the weekly shop and at the cashier desk, there were packets of traditional welshcakes winking at me, coaxing me to buy some. It had been a long while since I made my own and thought, why not – they are locally made and have a handmade look to them. Famous last words eh? Now, up until this point, I’d only eaten welshcakes I’d griddled myself.
Tender, buttery, flaky, spicy morsels of deliciousness which compel you onwards to bite again and again until a plateful has mysteriously vanished; I was seduced by these humble pancake-come-scone-come-shortcrust pastry. Sadly, this cellophane wrapped siren packet was nothing of the sort. Biscuity, dry, too sweet, meh quite frankly an insult to the welshcake name. It’s not often homemade comes second to processed ‘though… What follows are light years away from that nasty packet mix, not to mention oh so festive.
This is one of those simple recipes you would absolutely be forgiven couldn’t possibly be so joyous to eat. In its simplest form, it’s half fat to flour with slightly less sugar and the same amount of dried fruit with a pinch of spice. Very much like sweet shortcrust pastry say for an apple pie or perhaps a very buttery scone mix.
Originally, one would use just mixed spice and sultanas but the holidays are coming and whilst I don’t dislike sultanas why settle for “will do” when there something better out there. In this situation, it’s good quality dried, pitted dates plus jewel bright dried cranberries. When you griddle these cakes to cook them, the dates in particular melt a modicum and take on an almost paste like quality.
It also allows you to reduce the sugar as they are so very naturally sweet one kind leave the caster in the jar. My next addition is the zest of one juicy, glowing, vivid orange coloured clementine which I think of as at the floral end of the citrus spectrum, flavour and scent wise. Me and Hungry Hubby eat kilos of clementines every Christmas. The Filosofo brand from Costco are particularly moreish. They herald the start of the festivities to us, bringing home a crate (or two) means Christmas really is upon us.
And that colour – absurdly exotically orange, a glowing ember in the short, dark days of winter. A delight on very level. Sticking with tradition, I do add mixed spice – mine is quite potent having only been ground the day before by my Bamix, you may need a little more if your jar has been sat at the back of your spice rack since last Christmas ;).
One golden yolked egg brings the buttery crumbs together then you have to exercise some patience and wait whilst the pastry dough chills in the fridge. I find cleaning the kitchen is an excellent distraction – if you don’t wait at least 30 minutes you won’t get nice sharp edges when you cut the cakes out and they will lose definition on cooking. Not sure a heinous crime really, although once you’ve tried these it will seem like an eternity to wait until you get your next fix!
Being as I was consumed by the Christmas spirit, it only seemed fitting to shimmy my star cutter out of the cupboard when it came time to cut and cook. I do love an old fashioned fluted scone cutter too but see no reason to not branch out a little – I’d love to see what shapes you come up with as my cookie cutter collection is meagre to say the least. Just don’t pick too intricate a shape or you’ll find it impossible to get the flaky dough out of even a very well floured cutter.
Obviously that misshapen, small central one on the griddle plate was my “tester” welshcake. Ok, cook’s perk. Shhh, Hungry Hubby doesn’t know I got this extra one before he was offered a platter full, shhh ;). My only word of caution when cooking these sweet mouthfuls of loveliness is watch the heat – my horrid electric hob is all or nothing so it was challenging to say the least to maintain a medium-low heat so not to scorch and burn those beautiful shards and pieces of jewel bright dried fruits. The desire to eat as many unspoiled specimens somehow helped me find a way to proceed with due care and attention ;).
Unlike those horrid biscuity skinny welshcakes I picked up down the local shop, I like my homemade ones on the thicker side. If you roll out to just under a centimetre thick, they puff up to just over. That is the perfect thickness for me but do feel free to roll thinner and cut whatever shapes you fancy. Just make sure you have the tea brewing as you griddle and be patient enough to let them cool to room temp to prevent blistering your mouth from scalding hot fruit! If you’re like me, you’ll only be so greedily impatient once… Or twice ;)
Might I suggest these would make a sweet start to The Big Day on Christmas morning, just a little nibble enough to keep the blood sugars within normal limits until the main event arrives. Only a month to go guys – one month today!
- 225 g plain flour
- 2 rounded tsp baking powder
- 1/4 - 1/2 tsp mixed spice
- 100 g cold butter cubed
- 75 g caster sugar
- Zest of a clementine or half off an orange
- 40 g dried pitted dates finely chopped
- 40 g dried cranberries chopped if very large
- 1 large egg
Sift the flour, baking powder and spice into a large bowl
Rub in the butter - keep going until it resembles a fine porridge, i.e. take it a bit further than for shortcrust pastry
Stir in the sugar, follow with the zest then the fruits - rub well between your palms to combine all the ingredients
Crack in and break up the egg, mixing with a fork until you have damp clumps of pastry and then bring together with your hands - fear not if a little crumbly still, it will be fine after resting and rolling
Wrap in cling and refrigerate for between half an hour and one day maximum
Roll out between 2 sheets of cling until just less than a 1cm thick - I like mine quite fat (they puff quite a lot on cooking); re-roll as necessary, it can take 2-3 rolls no problem
Cut out with a fluted scone cutter to be traditional or fairly simple shaped cookie cutters as liked (don't pick too intricate a cutter as they are too short to handle without breaking)
Preheat a flat griddle or large flat bottomed frying pan - aim for a medium low heat
I suggest cooking one first to get the measure of your hob and pan - it's very variable and with all that fruit and sugar, it's all too easy to burn them if you have the heat too high
Each cake take about 1-2 minutes per side BUT it will depend on how thick you cut them out - when you press in the middle they should only give a fraction; if very soft they haven't cooked through and are still raw
Cool on a rack then eat once no longer piping hot - that fruit will burn your mouth (she speaks from experience ;) )
Will keep several days in an airtight box, if you're not greedy like us ;)
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