Saturday, May 18, 2013

Welsh Cakes

Every summer starting when I was 10, I went to summer camp for a week.  It was one of the highlights of my year.  My time at camp impacted me tremendously and is part of the reason I am in camping ministry today. 

Mostly when I think of camp, I remember the songs, the games, the rope swing, and the constant smell of campfire smoke and pine needles. 

I also remember the welsh cakes.  We had these for breakfast at least once every year I was there.  They are not quite a biscuit, not quite a scone.  A little sweeter and denser than either one, dotted with
currants and eaten with jam.  And at Camp Indianola, it was always served with hot chocolate.  Yum.  I've never run into these little gems anywhere else.  Which is unfortunate.

In my search for the recipe, I scoured all my cookbooks, and then the internet.  To no avail.  Nothing I found came close.  So I finally contacted the camp itself, and someone there kindly emailed me the recipe.

And now I share it with you.  Thank you, Camp Indianola.  For welsh cakes, among other things.

The Step-by-Step

Mix dry ingredients

Combine the flour, baking powder and sugar in a mixing bowl.

Cut in the butter

Fortuitously, butter here comes in packages that equal about a cup.   This makes measuring by my very precise, scientific method easy.  See?  I just measured 3/4 of a cup of butter.  

(In America, your butter comes in sticks equaling a 1/2 cup, so you'd need a stick and a half).  See that - I did all your math for you.  You're welcome.

Now, we cut the butter into the dry ingredients.  You can do this with a handy-dandy pastry blender, like I have (which doesn't look like a blender at ALL, by the way), or you can just get in there and use your fingers.  Effective either way.

The butter will end up in little teensy weensy bits.  Like this.

Add currants, milk, and egg

Toss the currants (in my case raisins - no currants available) right on in there.  Stir it up.

Now add the milk and the egg.

Stir it until it starts looking like it might want to become a ball of dough. 

Roll and cut

Lightly flour a clean counter top, and plop down your dough. The dough may need a dusting of flour too.

Roll out the dough to about 1/2 inch thickness.  Find a cookie cutter that is about 2 1/4 inch diameter.  If you look closely, you'll find that my cookie cutter happens to be the cap to a baby bottle.  Hey look, don't judge, it's not like I have a Williams Sonoma down the street or anything.  I don't have anything down the street.  Just chickens and old ladies.

Here you see that the cutouts are, indeed, about 1/2 inch thick.  You really don't want them thicker than this, because they will rise a bit as they cook, and because you'll end up with raw middles if you make them much thicker.

Throw them in an ungreased frying pan on the stovetop.  That's right.  These are cooked in a pan, like pancakes, NOT baked in an oven.  Cook til golden brown on the bottoms, then flip.  Now listen very carefully, I'm about to tell you the key to the whole thing...

Here's the secret.....  cook these on LOW heat.  My burners have heat levels 1-12.  I made these on 3 or 4 level heat.  If the pan is too hot, the outsides will burn before the insides finish cooking.  Trust me on this.  Not that I've personally ever done that (ahem).  This one thing will make or break your welsh cakes.

Another very precise, scientific method for telling if they're done.  Squish on them with your fingers. If they are still squishy, they need to cook more.  If they are firm, you are good to go.

Take them off the heat.  Gobble them up.

Best served with a little jam.  Now if you'll excuse me, I think I'll have a cup of hot chocolate and go braid a lanyard.

The Recipe

Makes 16

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder 
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter
1/2 cup dried currants (or raisins)
1 egg
1/4 cup milk

Mix the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.  Cut in the butter.  Add the currants, stir them in.  Add the egg and milk.  Mix to form a dough.  

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/2 inch thick.   Cut into rounds about 2 1/4 inch in diameter.  Cook on a skillet on LOW heat, turning once, until golden brown on both sides and cooked through.

Serve with jam.