We all know that Mike the Viking is typically wrong about things.
He is wrong about soup (that it is an abomination) and about beans (that they are poison). He is wrong in believing that I am a shrew of a woman (I am not). And he is wrong about Welsh cakes, and not in the way that Ann Romney is empirically wrong about them.
And here is where I have to tread very carefully. He has brought home great baggies of his family’s Welsh cakes before, and I am historically not a fan of them. Perhaps because he lets them - and likes them – to get quite stale, I find them to be dry and a little bland. I mean his family no disrespect — I am certain that I make plenty of foods that fail to blow their skirts up.
So, Mike turned 40 this week. In Viking years, that’s like 200. I decided to make him Welsh cakes, and knowing no better place to start, I used the recipe off the Wales tourism website.
They are mixed together like a pie dough, a very buttery short dough made soft by the addition of egg, milk and baking powder. I asked Mike if I might substitute dried blueberries for currants (since that is what the magical cupboard of unknown dried fruits yielded) and he gave me an emphatic “NO.” I went and got some currants.
The dough itself is an easy and pleasant texture, and did not require a rolling pin. I just patted the loose dough between two sheets of plastic wrap and a light dusting of flour until it was the right thickness.
The strange thing about Welsh cakes is that they are fried. Or griddled, rather. It is recommended that one use an electric griddle since the temperature is more easily controlled, but I decided to use my non-stick stovetop griddle, which is actually what I use for almost everything I fry. I like that it has no sides. This is shitty when trying to saute a large pile of something since 30% ends up somewhere on the stovetop, but que sera.
You cook them medium-low until they brown nicely on one side, and then flip them. The balance is in getting the thickness of the cakes right so that they cook through and brown at just the correct rate. It’s not really complicated. You keep the flame lowish and watch them. A lot of recipes call for tossing the finished cakes in a bit of granulated sugar, which I love the look of, but Mike frowned at for the sandy texture, and I later admitted was leaving a trail of sugar all over the house as we walked around munching on them. Not that the dog minded.
When cooked they are similar to a scone, soft and buttery, with a soft but toothsome crust. I love these. They are simple and tasty. Mike agrees: excellent, though not like his family’s. He could tell from looking at my dough and from the flavor that this recipe contains more butter, and no one is arguing that is a bad thing. It surprises me not at all to learn that the secret to a Welsh cake I like is butter, but there it is.
i weighed everything in this recipe, since the one i was working from offered no volumes. i am sorry if you don’t have a scale. the holidays are coming up, maybe you should ask for one. also don’t balk at the pumpkin pie spice, i swear it will not make these taste like something that fell in your mouth at Starbucks. it lends just the faintest whiff of interest and nothing more.
225g/8oz plain flour
100g/4oz/1 stick cold butter
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 Tablespoons milk
- Dump the flour, spice, salt and baking powder into a bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces and dump them in, and using your hands, smash the pieces into the flour by pressing the cubes between your thumb and forefinger. Keep doing this until the butter has broken down into small bits, which will probably take about 3 – 5 minutes. Think about things, like what you’d like to have for dinner, or if it is worthwhile to get a gun permit.
- Add the sugar and currants and mix together briefly with your hands. Make a well in the center of the bowl and dump in the lightly beaten egg and the milk. Still using your hands, quickly mix. It will not come together completely, and that is okay. Don’t overwork it, treat it like pie dough.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured piece of plastic wrap, and using the wrap, mash the dough together just barely until it holds. Pat it flat into a disk that is 1/3 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut out rounds with a cookie or biscuit cutter.
- Heat a non-stick skillet or griddle to medium low heat. Do one test cake first to make sure the heat is correct – it should be golden brown on one side in about 4-5 minutes. Flip and cook the other side to the same color. When you’re sure the temperature is correct, then do as many as 6 at once. Transfer to a rack to cool. Traditionally (I guess?) they are tossed in a little granulated sugar while still warm, and this is really pretty and Christmassy, but it also make a damn mess, so my suggestion is to skip it.