Eccles Cakes for the Royal Wedding


We’ve been keeping so busy with Easter, Earth Day, building a chicken coop, and the arrival of spring to the back yard, that I hadn’t given much thought to the impending royal wedding.

Then last Saturday, over at my in-laws, my sister and I browsed a small stack of magazines dedicated to Will, Kate and big event. The ring! The story! The romance! I fell hard for the whole package.

The next day I bookmarked The Website, followed the Twitter account and even took a peak at the You Tube channel.

It’s pretty magical, you have to admit. A prince, struck with tragedy so young, forever in the public eye, now marrying for love.

My mother married a British man nearly 40 years ago, my dear dad. I was delighted when she told me today that she was making her wedding cake again – a traditional English fruitcake- in honour of the royal wedding. She was also planning to rise at 3 am, go over to her sisters (my parents don’t have TV) and watch the whole shebang. Mom, you are so cool.

Of course I’ve done a bit of baking of my own. Buttermik Scones are prepared for tomorrow’s breakfast and wedding viewing. Although I’ll be playing catch up online. No 3 am wake up for this mama.

If you’re looking for an accompaniment to your tea tomorrow, may I suggest Eccles Cakes? Imagine a layer of black currants and sugar pressed between two sheets of puff pastry and baked to a crisp, caramelized delicious morsel. They’ve been a favorite of mine forever. That British background working its influence on my palate, I guess.

This particular interpretation of a classic British tea-time treat is more of a Canadian version of the original tea cakes of Eccles, England. With only three ingredients it is fast to make and you can easily whip up a batch for afternoon tea. So put the kettle on.


Eccles Cakes

ingredients:

  • 1 ½ lbs puff pastry, chilled
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup currants

Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper. Plump currants in hot water 10 minutes, drain and set aside.

Roll chilled dough in a floured surface in to a rectangle 3/16 inch thick. Put aside for a moment while removing all dusting flour. Sprinkle the work surface generously with sugar and continue rolling dough to 1/8 inch thickness.


Trim the piece in to a precise rectangle. Cover half the dough solidly with currants in a single layer. Sprinkle lightly with sugar. Fold the remaining half of the dough over the top of the currants.

Gently press a rolling pin over the entire surface until the black currants show through the sheet of thin dough. The result is a nice speckled appearance.

With a knife or pastry wheel, cut the dough into 2-inch squares and place 1-2 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet.

Place in the refrigerator to relax the dough for 25 minutes while the oven heats.


Reheat oven to 375F.

Place the baking sheet in the middle of the oven. When the bottoms have caramelized and are light brown, carefully turn the cakes over and finish baking. ( I forgot to do this step, so my tops are less caramelized.)

Place cakes on rack to cool. Enjoy!

Ed note: excerpts and photos from this post were previously published in October, 2007.

Tips for a Peaceful Mother’s Day (via Simple Bites)


It’s Mother’s Day this Sunday!

Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered with my latest post over at Simple Bites:

How to Have Peace, Serenity AND Breakfast in Bed on Mother’s Day.

From the post…

By simply planning ahead and offering a few instructions/suggestions for the well-wishers, I increase my chances of getting a speedy and tasty breakfast in bed, minimize kitchen disasters, and ensure a relaxed start to the day for all.

Click through for a full confessional, helpful to-do lists for the whole family and a basic scone recipe to bookmark.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Lemon-Ginger Cream Scones


It’s atrocious that I don’t yet have a scone recipe on this blog. I guess it’s because for the longest time I’ve viewed scones are mere transportation for the good stuff: jam.

I’ve finally found a recipe worthy of my attention: delicate cream scones flavored with fresh lemon zest and ginger two ways. Not only is their make ahead feature terribly convenient, but their tender crumb and winning flavor combination bump them to the top of my breakfast baking list.

These scones are guaranteed to hold the spotlight no matter what they are accompanied with.

Thanks to Jennifer from Mama’s Minuta for passing along the recipe.

Lemon-Ginger Cream Scones
Slightly adapted (but not edited) from The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum

12 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes and frozen
3/4 cup heavy cream, whipped and then chilled
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2/3 cup crystallized ginger, chopped fairly small

For the topping:
2 teaspoons cream
2-3 tablespoons demerara sugar

Put the chilled cubes of butter in a food processor along with the flour, sugar, baking powder, ground ginger, salt, and zest. Pulse for 10-15 seconds until there are no longer any large lumps. (Or, if you prefer, grate the butter on a box grater into the flour mixture, and combine gently with your fingers.)

Dump the mixture into a large bowl and add the crystallized ginger. Fold in the whipped cream. Knead the dough lightly, shape it into a ball, and then press it into a disk that is 6 inches in diameter and about 3/4 inches thick. Wrap the disk in plastic wrap and chill it in the refrigerator for about an hour.

After the dough has chilled (do not omit that step as the dough is very tender and will lose its shape if it is not sufficiently firm when it goes into the oven), remove it from the fridge, unwrap it, and cut it into eight wedges. Place the wedges on a lightly greased baking sheet, brush the tops with cream and sprinkle liberally with sugar. Bake the scones at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature. Any leftover scones should be stored in a tightly sealed plastic bag in the freezer; to thaw, remove them from the bag and set on a plate.

Do ahead: Rose suggests flash-freezing the cut, raw scones and then storing them in a plastic bag in the freezer. When ready to bake, simply place them on the baking sheets, brush with cream, sprinkle with sugar, and bake. Add 5-7 minutes to the baking time.

I tried this with excellent success and will now carry a secret stash of frozen scones in my freezer for impromptu afternoon tea.

Yeast 101 Tutorial and Easter Egg Bread

Photo and bread by Lynn Craig

We’ve got a fabulous Yeast 101 tutorial today on Simple Bites for those of you may feel slightly skiddish about working with yeast.

Our post Taming the Yeast: Easter Egg Bread not only gives tips on how to feel confident when working with yeast, but shows, step-by-step, how to execute a lovely festive loaf.

Create this easy, yet impressive Easter Egg Braided Bread and show your friends this Easter

“Look, it has risen indeed!”

Head here for the tutorial and recipe…

Happy Easter, everyone!

Pecan-Streusel Coffee Cake


Danny celebrates his birthday on July 1st, which is Canada Day. He has always liked having his birthday on that particular National holiday as there is sure to be a party or an event happening, but I feel that as a result of all the festivities, his birthday tends to take a backseat. Usually there’s some sort of brunch, then a mad dash downtown to stake a spot on the sidewalk for the parade. This is generally followed by an ice cream outing and an afternoon poolside with friends and family. If we can muster up any energy after that, we’ll catch an open air concert in the evening and some fireworks in Montreal’s Old Port. Not much time in there to bake a cake, you’ll notice, so this year I was happy the birthday boy requested something simple.


A wonderful recipe from bon appétit, this Pecan-Streusel Coffee Cake was just the kind of simple recipe we needed to quickly put together after a long day. It was so easy, Noah did most of the work, relishing in the thought that he was creating his daddy’s birthday cake. Fireworks were going off in the distance as we ate the cake warm from the oven and the candles melted into it, but it was so good, no one minded; definitely worth missing fireworks for.


With a cake like this, the person of honour is bound to feel special, as I know Danny did, no matter how many other things are going on. Greek-style yogurt keeps it very moist, and a decadent vein of brown sugar-pecan streusel running through the center makes it hard to eat just one piece.

Pecan-Streusel Coffee Cake
From
Bon Appetit magazine
Serves 9

Ingredients:

Streusel

2/3 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
2/3 cup all purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly

1/2 cup pecans, toasted, coarsely chopped

Cake

2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/3 cups (packed) golden brown sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1 cup whole-milk or reduced-fat (2%) plain Greek-style yogurt*

*A thick yogurt; sold at some supermarkets and at specialty foods stores and Greek markets. If unavailable, spoon regular yogurt into a cheesecloth-lined strainer set over a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight to drain.

Preparation:

Streusel: Combine brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon in medium bowl. Add melted butter; toss with fork to blend. Using fingertips, rub mixture together until small clumps form. Mix in pecans. Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Cake:
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F.
Butter 9x9x2-inch metal baking pan.

Combine flour, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt in medium bowl; whisk to blend. Using electric mixer, beat brown sugar, butter, and vanilla in large bowl until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl occasionally. Add half of flour mixture; beat just until blended. Add yogurt; beat just until blended. Beat in remaining flour mixture just until blended.

Spoon half of batter into prepared baking pan; spread evenly. Sprinkle half of streusel evenly over batter. Spoon remaining batter in dollops over streusel, then spread evenly over with offset spatula. Sprinkle remaining streusel evenly over top.

Bake cake until streusel topping is brown and tester inserted into centre of cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool cake in pan on rack 30 minutes.
Cut into squares and serve slightly warm or at room temperature