The heroine of one of my historical novels is from Lancashire, England, and despite her mother’s prohibitions, she loves to bake and learned in secret from their cook whenever her mother wasn’t around. The obvious choice was the delectable Lancashire specialty, Eccles Cakes. My heroine only bakes in one scene of the book, but still, I decided to try making them myself, because I wanted to get it right.


I didn’t. In fact, I made a major flub. (Fortunately, no one has bought the story yet, so whew! I have plenty of time to fix it.) Eccles Cakes are made with puff pastry, which is not quick or simple to make; in fact, it’s quite a lengthy process. My heroine can’t merrily roll out the dough and bake Eccles Cakes in an hour or so. But I still wanted to make them – hadn’t had any for years and years – so when I found an old package of puff pastry in my freezer, I thought, woo-hoo! Eccles Cakes today!


Here’s a recipe for the filling:

6 tablespoons butter

7/8 cup brown sugar

1 cup currants, raisins, or a mixture of the two

1 tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. nutmeg

Rind of 1 orange, grated. Theoretically, this is optional, but I think the orange rind is what makes the filling absolutely superb. I used one of those big, juicy navel oranges with thick, tasty rind. Yum!


Melt the butter and mix in the rest of the ingredients. The filling is so delicious that I kept sneaking spoonfuls.


To make Eccles Cakes, you’re supposed to cut rounds from the pastry, put a dollop of filling in the middle of each round, moisten half the edge with milk or water, bring the sides to the middle (i.e., enclosing the filling), and press together to seal; then turn the cake over and roll it ever-so-gently and pat into a round shape. I put in too much filling, and then, when the edges kept coming apart, gave up and just dumped the pastries on the pan (greased, by the way). You’re supposed to brush them with egg and a little sugar (I'm pretty sure I remember the sugar from my childhood) and cut a few slits in the top of each cake. Which I did, but my cakes had so many holes they didn’t really need the slits. Bake them at 425 degrees for about fifteen minutes.


They tasted great, but they looked awful. The picture (above) makes them look much better than in real life. (Kind of like professional author photos, but that’s another story.) I don’t know if the puff pastry was too old, or whether it was just my laziness in not following the directions carefully. I’ll try again some other day. If I screw up again... Well, they taste wonderful, which is all that really matters.


Back to my heroine, stuck in a scene that didn’t work. I decided to have her make Chorley Cakes instead. They’re another Lancashire specialty, and they’re a lot like Eccles Cakes except that they’re made with regular pastry instead. Easy!


Well, not really. My pastry turned out all right, but again I probably put in too much filling, and I didn’t even try rolling the dang things ever-so-carefully into a roundish shape. (My heroine will do everything perfectly. She’s a screw-up in many other ways, but not in the kitchen.) I just cut the pastry into squares and, using the same filling, made turnovers. I baked them at 350 degrees for longer than the Eccles Cakes. I didn't write down how long they took, but it was probably closer to half an hour. If the pastry looks done, that's good enough.


Bingo! Checcles Cakes or Chorcles Turnovers, scrumptious by whatever name.


They were delicious, but I think they’d be even better with more thinly-rolled pastry. Laziness is again to blame, but it gives me an excuse to try again (because needless to say, all the Checcles Turnovers - or maybe Chorcles Cakes - are long gone).



12 comments

  1. Nightingale // October 10, 2009 at 10:49 AM  

    These look and sound yummy.

  2. Scarlet Pumpernickel // October 10, 2009 at 12:40 PM  

    Love the pictures, they do indeed look scrumptious. I can't wait to try these and to read all about your baking heroine. Great post, Barbara!

  3. Patrice // October 10, 2009 at 12:44 PM  

    After looking at the pictures and reading the recipe, I'm hungry and would like some. Could you send it over to my place by cyberspace? Ummm - yummy!
    Thanks for sharing. You sound like me as a cook!
    Patrice

  4. Mary Marvella // October 10, 2009 at 1:41 PM  

    Barbara, you do know how to make me smile! Nothing dry or boring about your recipes! Thanks for the personal touch. I need to try at least one of them.

  5. Lynne Roberts // October 10, 2009 at 4:38 PM  

    I've never heard of these but they do sound yummy! Can you substitue the raisins with something else? Cranberry maybe?

    I wish I had more time to bake. Of course then I'd have to spend more time exercising.

    : )

  6. Barbara Monajem // October 10, 2009 at 7:32 PM  

    Thanks for the comments, everyone. If anybody tries these recipes, let me know how they work out.

    Lynne, I'm pretty sure you could use dried cranberries. As one who never follows a recipe exactly, I would recommend trying it! And yes, more exercising is definitely required. I've already realized that. :o)

  7. Mary Ricksen // October 10, 2009 at 8:26 PM  

    Heck with cyber space, put them in the teletransporter and send us some!

  8. Joanne // October 11, 2009 at 8:38 AM  

    Barbara,
    Both these recipes look delicious. I'll definitely have to try my hand at them--hopefully when someone else is around to roll the dough and do the dishes.

  9. Barbara Monajem // October 11, 2009 at 12:44 PM  

    Heh. Joanne, I totally relate about rolling the dough. I'm terrible at it! When I did butter tarts, I used a pastry recipe where you could just pat the dough into the muffin tins. It looked pretty bad, but it was easy!

  10. Autumn Jordon // October 11, 2009 at 2:03 PM  

    Oh, my gosh. You made me hungry. They look yummy. I love new recipes. Thanks for sharing them.

    AJ

  11. Judy // October 11, 2009 at 5:03 PM  

    These look yummy, Barbara... Love to see new recipes and have them tied in with a book...Thanks!

  12. Beth Trissel // October 11, 2009 at 7:31 PM  

    Excellent post! Wonderful recipes.