Today I have chosen ‘Welsh Cakes’, a supposedly ‘traditional’ treat from that country. I am not sure how long a dish has to be in existence before it can claim the honour of being ‘traditional’, but as the first mention of these delicacies is, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, in 1932, it appears that it does not have to be too long at all. More importantly, this first reference is from Dylan Thomas, which delights me no end.
The OED says that Welsh Cakes are ‘a kind of individual spicy cake made in Wales with currants and ginger.’ I don’t know about the ginger being crucial, but it appears that spice of some sort, and currants, are the defining ingredients for this particular griddle cake.
A griddle is, of course, a metal implement, and no doubt its most distant ancestor is the hearth stone. According to an article in The Times of Monday, March 28, 1960, a metal griddle may still be called a ‘bakestone’ in some parts of the world. I give you the article in its entirety, as it includes the recipe for the day.
Bakestone Cookery.A well-tempered bakestone is something to treasure: the longer you have it and the more you use it the better it gets.
“Bakestone” is Anglo-Welsh for the old Celtic greidell which my dictionary says is “a broad disc of iron for baking on” and that is just what it is, but what is not said is much more important. The disc must be of cast iron not less than ½ of an inch thick and must be cherished like an omelette pan; never washed but anointed with pure lard until it attains a patina like a dull black mirror.
½ lb. self-raising flour.
¼ lb. pure lard.
¼ lb. sugar
2 oz sultanas (or currants)
1 heaped eggspoonful nutmeg
1 heaped teaspoonful salt.
Crumble the lard into the flour by hand; add sugar, sultanas, nutmeg, and salt. Mix in the beaten egg – adding a little milk if necessary – till just right to roll out to about a bare quarter of an inch thick. Cut into rounds about 2 ½ inches in diameter.
In the meantime the bakestone should have been heating, and when you think it is ready, rub it over with larded paper. Try it for temperature with a scrap of dough and regulate the heat so that the dough browns evenly without burning in about seven to ten minutes, then place as many of the Welsh Cakes on it as possible. Turn over when all are evenly brown (about ten minutes) and cook the other side the same. When cold dust with caster sugar.
Quotation for the Day.
A genial hearth, a hospitable board, and a refined rusticity.