Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Flannel Cakes.

Here is your daily food-history fix, from flood-damaged Brisbane. Please, if you have not already done so, consider giving generously to the flood appeal. 

Flannel cakes sound a lot more boring and utilitarian and correspondingly less affection-inducing than Singing Hinnies, the subject of yesterday’s post, but they are a variation of the same theme. I assume the name connects these particular griddle cakes with the softish, fluffyish fabric particularly favoured for winter pajamas – but I could very definitely be wrong.

Some descriptions insist they are crumpets, which throws up a whole new debate, as many or most definitions of crumpets give them as being leavened with yeast – yet most recipes are egg or baking-powder leavened. Deconstructing crumpets is perhaps a future blog post.

Many or most descriptions of flannel cakes do mention their thinness, and/or their lightness, so perhaps the fabric metaphor is correct. They are first mentioned in print in the late eighteenth century, but very little consensus about what makes a flannel cake different from a common garden kind of griddle cake. I give you two quite different versions for your griddle cake collection.

Flannel Cakes.
One quart of milk, three eggs, the yolks and whites beaten separately, a little salt, a small piece of butter melted, and as much flour as will make a batter. Stir the whites into the batter just before baking. If sour milk, with soda, is used, no butter is needed.
The Young Wife’s Cook Book, Hannah Mary Peterson, 1870

Flannel Cakes, or Crumpets
Two pounds of flour, sifted.
Four eggs.
Three table-spoonfuls of the best brewer’s yeast, or four and a half of home-made yeast.
A pint of milk.
Mix a teaspoonful of salt with the flour, and set the pan before the fire. Then warm the milk, and stir it into the flour so as to make a stiff batter. Beat the eggs very light, and stir them into the yeast.
Add the eggs and yeast to the batter, and beat all well together. If it is too stiff, add a little more warm milk.
Have your baking-iron hot. Grease it, and pour on a ladle-full of batter. Le it bake slowly, and when done on one side, turn it on the other.
Butter the cakes, cut them across, and send them to table hot.
Seventy-five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats, Eliza Leslie (1836)

Quotation for the Day.
If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
J.R.R. Tolkien

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