Every year, around my birthday, Ken makes my favorite treat: Eccles cakes, a pastry so irresistibly delicious, they were once illegal.
"Eccles Cakes are a Lancashire specialty, named after the town of the same name. They were very popular in the seventeenth century until they were banned (along with mince pies) in 1650 by the Puritans, who thought they were sinfully rich. Oliver Cromwell went so far as to pass an act of Parliament authorizing imprisonment of any person found guilty of eating a currant pie." Great British Cooking: A Well Kept Secret, by Jane GarmeyI visited England for the first time back in the mid-1980s, and it was there I tasted Eccles cakes for the first time. I liked them so much, I sought out and bought a British cookbook, just so that I could have the recipe. I wasn't much of a cook in my younger days, so life went on and the recipe went untried for years, but I never forgot how delicious they were. Eventually, 20 years later, I convinced my husband to make a batch for me as a treat.
Could the reality of these simple little pastries stand up to 20 years of imagining? After remembering them fondly for so many years, would I be disappointed when I got to taste one again?
No indeed! The first bite of an Eccles cake, warm from the oven is always even more meltingly, overpoweringly delicious than I remember from the last time I had them.
So I decided to post directions on how to make them here on my blog. Everyone should be entitled to taste Eccles cakes as often as they like!
Eccles Cakes Recipe
(makes about 3 dozen)
- 1 package of ready-to-bake frozen puff pastry sheets (17.3 oz, 2 sheets per box)
- 1 box of dried currants (10 oz.)
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1 1/2 tsp allspice
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- Milk (approx 1/2 cup)
- Granulated sugar (approx. 1/4 cup)
1. Remove the puff pastries from the package and lay them out flat to thaw.
2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (F).
3. Combine the currants, brown sugar, butter, allspice, and nutmeg in a small saucepan.
4. Heat gently, stirring occasionally until the butter is melted and the ingredients are well mixed. Remove from heat.
4. On a smooth floured surface, roll out the puff pastry dough with a floured rolling pin until it is about 12" x 16".
5. Cut the rolled pastry dough into 4-inch rounds. We use a small custard ramekin as a guide. When you have cut all the circles you can, collect the remaining scraps of dough, knead them back together, then roll them out again and cut the rest of your circles.
6. Place one spoonful of the currant mix into the center of each pastry round. Brush the edges of the pastry with a little milk to moisten.
7. Fold the edges of the pastry up around the currant mixture and press into place.
8. Turn the little bundle over to hide the seam. Arrange the cakes on a cookie sheet lined with baking parchment. Cut 2-3small slits in the top of each pasty to make a place for the steam to escape. Brush the tops with milk and sprinkle with granulated sugar.
9. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.