I adore a recipe with a little history especially when it's history belongs locally to where I live.
Eccles cakes are named after the Manchester district in which they were first baked. They are a wonderful confection of buttery pastry, dried fruits (most commonly currants), sugar and spices. Traditionally served with a good piece of Lancashire Cheese and a hot cup of tea.
There are records of them going back as far as 1653 when they were outlawed by William Cromwell's Puritan Protectorate for being 'too damn good, frivolous and secretly pagan'. Of course with reinstatement of the monarchy they thrived once more. Such a wonderful history, I've even found this incredible old photograph below of 'Ye Olde Thatche' supposedly the home of the Original Eccles Cakes.
Now , the recipe is so simple...you can make your own puff pastry but I just bought a block of ready to roll 'All Butter Pastry'. * The filling is traditionally made from currants but I thought I'd bring it up to date with a mixture of currants, dried cranberries, sultanas and dried apricots*. Please just use what you have in, in whatever combination you prefer even a little mixed candied peel if you like. The filling is made with the addition of a little brown sugar, melted butter, lemon & orange zest, nutmeg and mixed spice ( pumpkin spice will do fine)
This recipe will make 12 dainty sized Eccles Cakes which is perfect for afternoon tea. Even though they are fine served cold they are at their best served warm from the oven
You will need a large baking tray lined with parchment paper and a 4"/10cm round pastry cutter
Set the oven to 180C/ 350F / Gas 4
A 375gm /12 oz block of All Butter Puff Pastry left at room temperature for 1 hour
250 gms (approximately 1 ¼ cups ) mixed dried fruits as mentioned * above... you can use all currants if you want to be traditional.
30 gms melted butter ( I used salted)
1 level tsp grated nutmeg
1 level tsp mixed spice (pumpkin spice)
the grated zest of 1 orange
the grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp soft brown sugar
1 egg beaten
caster / superfine sugar for sprinkling
Roll the pastry into a large rectangle and to about ¼" / 5mm thick. Cut into rounds with the pastry cutter. Carefully fold the off cuts and re-roll, cutting again until you have 12 circles.
Mix together in a bowl the dried fruits, spices, zests and soft brown sugar and moisten with the melted butter, stirring well to combine everything together.
Lay all the circles of pastry on a work surface
Place spoonfuls of the fruit mix equally in the centre of each circle.
Moisten the edges of the pastry and carefully enclose the fruit by bringing the pastry to the centre and gently easing and pinching the edges together to make a secure parcel.
Turn the parcels over and place on the prepared baking tray
Press the parcels down to make neat circles then cut 3 small slashes into the top of each cake to let the air out whilst baking.
Brush over with the beaten egg and sprinkle generously with caster/superfine sugar.
Bake in the centre of the oven for around 15/20 minutes when the cakes should be golden brown and crispy.
Place on a cooling tray and at best, serve whilst still warm with a nice hot cup of tea
still hot from the oven
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