Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Making 'Fine Cakes' - Attempt 1

I have an event coming up at the end of the month where I will be sharing food with my household. I wanted to take the opportunity to try some new recipes in my favourite area - desserts. While I was preparing dinner, I had the crazy idea to give this one a try:

TO MAKE FINE CAKES  (actually little biscuits)

From 'The Widow's Treasury' by John Partridge, 1585

To make fine Cakes. Take a quantity of fine wheate Flower, and put it in an earthen pot. Stop it close and set it in an Oven, and bake it as long as you would a Pasty of Venison, and when it is baked it will be full of clods. Then searce your flower through a fine sercer. Then take clouted Creame or sweet butter, but Creame is best: then take your sugar, cloves, Mace, saffron and yolks of eggs, so much as wil seeme to season your flower. Then put these things into the Creame, temper all together. Then put thereto your flower. So make your cakes. The paste will be very short; therefore make them very little. Lay paper under them.

Because this baking session was unplanned, there were a few things that were not ideal. My butter was too cold, making the creaming process inadequate. I couldn't find my mace in the spice cupboard, and I only had imitation saffron (which is fine for colour but adds no real flavour.) My egg was quite cold and I didn't have time to cook my flour. I also forgot to sieve it because I was trying to do too many things at once! Next time I would wrap the kneaded dough in cling film and refrigerate it for half an hour before rolling it out. Also, I couldn't find a round cookie cutter (hence the heart shape.) Castor sugar would probably work better than normal white sugar.

150g butter
1 cup of plain white flour
almost 1/2 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 pinch artificial saffron
1 slight pinch salt
a few drops of water to moisten if needed

Cut the butter into small pieces, and cream with the sugar. Mix the egg yolk in. Mix the spices and salt with the flour. Mix all together, adding a few drops of water if needed. The dough will be quite stiff. Roll out to about 0.5cm thick and cut into circles. Put on a tray with baking paper (I sprayed with a little cooking spray.) Cook for 15-18 minutes at about 180 degrees Celsius. Cool on the baking paper on a wire rack. Try not to eat them all at once! (The recipe makes about 30 cookies.)

 the raw cookies

 the finished product

The second batch got over cooked. I would cook for 12-15 minutes at about 180 degrees Celsius, but monitor as they cook to see if the oven needs to be turned down a bit after the first tray is cooked.

These are really delicious and buttery with a mild spice flavour. I will experiment with amping up the spice a bit and I think I will invest in some real saffron and cook some flour to see how the taste is affected.

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