This month we’ve been baking up a storm with Home Baked by Yvette Van Boven. It’s a book filled with recipes that run the spectrum. Homey breads and crackers to cakes, tarts and pastries that reflect her Irish and Dutch background. Fancy canneles and even a croquembouche, for the more special events in life. And March is flying by so quickly that I’m sure I won’t be able to try out all the recipes that I have flagged.
I couldn’t help myself. My first recipe had to be the Eccles Cakes that hail from England. These have had a special place in my heart ever since I spent a few months in England. I spent time in London, and then travelled the countryside west to Devon and Cornwall. Those green rolling hills dotted with sheep that mesmerized me as the train took me west are images that will stay with me forever.
And it was in Devon that I first tried Cornish Pasties, little hand held meat and veggie pies. I thought they were fabulous! I also tried true Devon clotted cream for the first time. Oh my!!! I would never be the same. And then to taste ice cream made from said clotted cream! Game Changer! Roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, real fish and chips wrapped in newspaper. I had a blast eating my way around the countryside. But one of my most favourite food memories of my time there, was the Eccles Cake. It’s really a puff pastry filled with dried currants and spices. Actually, the filling totally reminds me of mincemeat pie filling. Which is one of my most favourite flavours. I realize that mincemeat pie can be a tad polarizing. I contend that you just haven’t had a good one yet. I’ll have to share my recipe with you one day!
In the meantime, I’m sharing this recipe. It’s a sweet little treat. And because it calls for ready made puff pastry half the work is already done for us. The filling is a lot less labour intensive that a classic mincemeat filling, so these really come together pretty quickly. Which means that we can get down to the business of eating them!
These are a perfect treat with coffee or tea. Or even as part of a cheese board. Yvette, in her book suggests pairing these lovely, sugar crunchy topped morsels with blue cheese. I can totally see that. The yin and yang of it all. The spicy sweetness and crispness of the cake contrasted with the creamy and tangy savouriness of the cheese. Now I want some blue cheese in the house. Best go off to get some!
A classic British treat, this lovely buttery pastry is filled with dried currants, sultanas, cloves, lemon and orange zest and brandy. Fragrant and perfect with a coffee or even on a cheese board- they go amazingly with blue cheese!
- 7 tbsp butter (100 g)
- 1 dried bay leaf discard middle stem and crush the leaf into small pieces
- 1 star anise
- 1/2 nutmeg, grated
- 2 whole cloves
- 1 1/2 cups currants (250 g)
- 1/2 cup golden raisins (75 g)
- zest from 2 lemons 1 lemon juiced
- zest from 2 oranges
- 1/3 cup packed brown sugar (75 g) alternatively you can use granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp brandy
- 26 oz puff pastry (750 g) defrosted
- 2 eggs beaten
- 2 tbsp raw or demerara sugar for sprinkling on pastries
Make the filling:
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium low heat and add the bay leaf, star anise, nutmeg, and cloves. Allow to steep for 5 minutes or so.
Add the currants, raisins, lemon zest, lemon juice, orange zest and brown sugar, and allow everything to steep over very low heat for about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally. Remove from the heat.
Stir in the brandy and let cool. Can even be left in the fridge overnight to allow the flavours to meld.
Preheat the oven to 400F (200C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
If you are using store bought puff pastry that comes in sheets, stack the separated defrosted sheets and roll them into one slab.
Divide the slab into three portions. Leave two in the fridge while you roll out the one portion to 1/8 inch (3 mm) thickness on a flour dusted counter.
Using a 3 inch (8 cm) round cookie cutter, cut out circles. Place a small heap of the filling (about 3/4 of a tbsp) in the middle of the dough circle.
Fold the edges around the filling: Pull the two halves to the centre and seal them together with you fingers. Then fold the two tips inward as well and press them down to secure them.
Turn the pastry over, with the seam facing down, smooth side up. Gently roll over the pastry with a rolling pin, until a flat, even and nicely round pastry lies in front of you! Don't press too hard or some of the filling will burst out.
Use a sharp knife to make three parallel cuts across the top. These vents will ensure that your pastry becomes nice and crispy.
Do all of this quickly. You'll get into a rhythm. Store made ones back in the fridge while you continue with all the pastry.
Set the finished pastries about 1-2 inches apart on the baking sheet.
Brush with egg and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake for about 20 minutes, until crisp and golden brown. Set finished ones on a cooling rack (don't try eating them too soon- the filling is quite hot.
Continue until all the pastries have been baked off.
These are lovely with coffee or tea. This is the traditional way to enjoy them.
But the mincemeat filling is the perfect contrast to a lovely creamy blue cheese or a sharp pecorino. So why not offer these the next time you are creating a cheese board. Perfect for the cooler months.
These are best eaten warm. If you are storing them for a day, they can be in a sealed container on the counter. Then before serving, place in a toaster oven and bake at 300 for about 5-8 minutes till warmed through again.
If you don't plan to eat them right away, you can bake them for only 15 minutes until just light brown. Then you can freeze them for later use. Just finish them in a preheated oven at 350F (180C) for 10-12 more minutes.