I hadn't realised that Tunbridge (or Tonbridge) Cakes were almost the same as Goosnargh Cakes until this was brought to my attention by Glyn from the Foods of England website. There are several different versions of the recipe around and I decided to try one from a 1822 book called 'The Cook and Housekeeper's Dictionary' by Mary Eaton. This recipe differs from normal shortbread by having eggs in addition to butter, sugar and flour.
Rub six ounces of butter quite fine into a pound of flour; then mix six ounces of sugar, beat and strain two eggs, and make the whole into a paste. Roll it very thin, and cut it with the top of a glass. Prick the cakes with a fork, and cover them with carraways; or wash them with the white of an egg and dust a little white sugar over.
I followed the recipe fairly closely, keeping the quantites the same. I made some with caraway seeds on top and the rest I sprinkled with caster sugar. I baked them for around 12-15 minutes at gas mark 5.
The plain sugared biscuits were good, very similar to a shortbread but not quite as rich and buttery tasting. The ones with caraway seeds tasted too bitter for my liking. They were better after I had scraped most of the seeds off.
This is another recipe where there are several different things with the same name. The traditional version (from at least the 18th century) which has biscuit crumbs, raisins, fat, sugar and egg mixed together then fried. There is a modern version which is completely different and has apricots and meringue on a puff pastry base.
Since I usually try to make the more authentic or historic version of a recipe, I had a go at the biscuit version.
Oxford Pudding, 'The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy', Hannah Glasse (1747)
A quarter of a pound of biscuit grated, a quarter of a pound of currants clean washed and picked, a quarter of a pound of suet shred small, half a large spoonful of powder-sugar, a very little salt, and some grated nutmeg; mix all well together, then take two yolks of eggs, and make it up in balls as big as a turkey's egg. Fry them in fresh butter of a fine light brown; for sauce have melted butter and sugar, with a little sack or white wine. You must mind to keep the pan shaking about, that they may be all of a fine light brown.
I followed the above recipe fairly closely, using a generous heaped teaspoon of mixed spice instead of the nutmeg. The mixture was quite soft and the balls of 'pudding' collaposed slightly in the pan.
I let them cool for a couple of minutes before trying one. They were a bit like a bread and butter pudding bite, surprisingly soft despite the biscuits being quite hard. Since the recipe didn't mention the type of biscuits required, I used a mixture of spare/broken biscuits including oat cookies and shortbread.
After I had made my version, I found another recipe:
Oxford Dumplings, The Art Of Cookery (Mollard 1836)
Mix together a quarter of a pound of grated stale bread crumbs, a few currants, a little moist sugar, and a quarter of a pound of beef suet chopped fine, with two eggs, a little salt, and half a gill of cream. Divide the mixture into several parts and boil.
This version is much closer to a bread and butter pudding, using bread instead of biscuit and using a custard to bind everything together.
I've taken advantage of being at home over Christmas and New Year and I've managed to try a few new recipes.
Sweet potato and cheese scones used up one of the sweet potatoes that have been sitting in the kitchen for a few weeks. They made a tasty lunch.
Spelt biscuits were made using spelt flour, bread flour, butter and fruit juice. I put some powdered ginger in to give them a bit more flavour.
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It has been quite a long time since I did one of the regional recipes. I haven't forgotten about them but I have been very busy recently. My new job keeps me out of the house for 12 hours a day during the week so I have very little time in the evenings. Yesterday I finally managed to make the Isle of Wight Cracknels. They take quite a long time but most of that was between the boiling and baking steps when they were left to dry.
I decided to make Isle of Wight Cracknels because I've never made a traditional biscuit before (i.e. a 'twice cooked' one, which is where the word biscuit actually comes from). There are a lot of historical mentions of the biscuit and a few published recipes but I couldn't find any pictures, so I had no idea what 'form into cracknels' actually means. I decided to just roll them out and cut them into a variety of shapes.
Extract from The Isle of Wight Tourist, and Companion at Cowes by R. Moir, published in 1830.
A mention of Cracknels from a newspaper: New Zealand Colonist and Port Nicholson Advertiser from 1st August 1843.
To make the biscuits, I mixed together: 400g of flour, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp mixed spice and 1/2 tsp cinnamon. I mixed in 200g of softened butter and beat in one egg to form a stiff paste. I rolled out the paste, cut out the biscuits and dropped them a few at a time into a pan of simmering water. When they began to float I fished them out and put them into a bowl of cold water. After they had all been boiled and cooled, I put them on cooling racks to dry out. (As I mention below, I sprinkled sugar and seeds on some of them) When they had dried out I baked them at gas mark 6 for 25-30 minutes, turning them over half way through.
The Cracknel recipe from Cassell's Dictionary of Cookery.
The biscuits came out more like pastry disks which, now I look more closely at the ingredients, shouldn't be a surprise really.
Since the recipe I followed doesn't include any sugar, and I didn't want to add any since I was trying to stay faithful to the old 1883 recipe from Cassell's Dictionary of Cookery, I didn't add any to the mixture but I did split the mix into three parts and sprinkle sugar on one set, some sugared fennel seeds (leftover from the Bath Buns) on another set and left the final set plain.
(I had found an almost identical recipe in a book called The Canadian Housewife's Manual of Cookery which includes an unspecified amount of sugar but I had forgotten about it until I came to write this up today)
Cracknel recipe from The Canadian Housewife's Manual of Cookery.
Some of the biscuits had puffed up while others had stayed flat. While this didn't affect the taste at all, the puffed up ones had a softer texture and were nicer to eat.
I tried a couple of the biscuits last night, before they had cooled down fully, and the mixed spice flavour came through quite well but the biscuits could do with being a bit sweeter. Even the ones which I sprinkled sugar on didn't really have much of a sweet taste. One of the newer variations, which include quite a lot of sugar, might be more suitable for the modern palate.
Many years ago, on the way home from a holiday Up North, we stopped at the village of Goosnargh. I think we mainly went there because of the unusual name. I remember that we took a photos in and around the churchyard but don't remember anything of the village itself.
The Goosnargh cake is another variation on the shortbread recipe. At first I thought it was the same as Aberffraw Biscuits with the addition of caraway seeds but upon a closer look the recipes use different proportions of butter, sugar and flour (2:3:6 sugar, butter, flour, whereas the Aberffraw biscuits are the easier to remember 1:2:3).
These biscuits came out crunchier and a bit darker. I may have slightly over-baked them but the colour may have been down to the mixture of regular and dark sugar I used (since one of the recipes I found called for golder caster sugar).
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This year my new recipe challenge is to make a regional cake or dessert for each letter of the alphabet. I will be concentrating on British places, with emphasis on places I have visited or which have any particular significance for me. Ideally each dish should come from (or at least be named after) the place in question.
My A to Z of cakes starts in Anglesey. When I was younger we used to have family holidays on Anglesey and we visited Aberffraw on several occasions. I remember swimming upstream in the river but staying in the same place due to the strong current, walking along the sand dunes and visiting the old church on the island just around the coast.
The Aberffraw Biscuit is similar to shortbread and is allegedly the oldest biscuit recipe in Britain. It is traditionally shaped in a scallop shell. I don't have any of those so I used a madeleine tray instead.
The recipe is fairly simple, consisting of just flour, butter and sugar. I used my food processor to cream together 100g of butter and 50g of caster sugar. I added 150g of sifted plain flour, a bit at a time, and pulsed the food processor until everything was mixed together. I had to tip it onto the work surface squash it all together to make a ball.
I broke off small pieces and pushed them into the individual hollows in the madeleine tray before baking the biscuits at gas mark 4 for about 15-20 minutes.
I tried one when they were still warm and the texture was quite soft and almost cakey, quite unlike a shortbread. When they cooled they became firmer but still didn't go as hard as a traditional scottish shortbread. This was a nice simple recipe to start the year but I'll be getting more ambitious with future desserts.
I was unable to post a new recipe last week because I was too busy at the start of the week, and too ill at the end, but I managed to catch up today. Since we are now in december, I have decided to do some festive recipes in the run-up to Christmas.
The first is a nice quick one from the Hairy Biker's European baking book. Janhagels are a kind of spiced shortbread topped with nuts and brown sugar. I decided to have a go at making this using our new food processor, to speed up the mixing a bit.
I started with 300g of flour, 200g of light brown sugar, 200g of cold diced butter, a generous pinch of salt, a generous teaspoon of cinnamon and ½ a teaspoon of mixed spice. This went in the food processor and was pulsed until it had mixed together to form breadcrumbs.
This then got tipped into a bowl and a beaten egg was mixed in to form a dough. This got pressed into a greased and lined baking tin. The topping was made from 50g of sliced almonds and 50g of brown sugar, which was mixed together and pressed into the top.
The mix was baked at gas mark 4 for about 35 minutes. I'm not sure how similar these are supposed to be to traditional shortbread (which I do really like) but these had a slightly softer texture. The spice mix did give them a nice christmassy taste.
Now I've got last week's recipe sorted, I can start thinking about this week.
I saw these giant custard cream biscuits in the Costa near work and had to buy one. I photographed it next to a few normal sized ones for scale.