11
Dec
10

Eccles cake, aka British currant turnovers

Faux Grant brought back this cookbook from England (cheers, Faux!), which encourages you to make a proper meal out of afternoon tea. Aside: if we Americans paused for afternoon tea, I bet we’d have a lot less road rage. Anyway, the book is split into savory dishes (potted meats, sandwiches, spreads/pastes) and traditional British desserts, which I’m a big fan of–even the ones with sketchy names like spotted dick.


On my first outing I tried the Eccles cake, which dates back to the 18th century. A coworker had mentioned enjoying this pastry on a trip to England, which was the first time I’d heard of it. The recipe in Mrs. Simkins calls for pre-made puff pastry filled with a mixture of brown sugar, butter, lemon zest, and currants. Basically, a turnover with a mincemeat-type filling (less the meat).

Currants are the raisins of the UK but way less sweet, and smaller. You’ll find them dotting baked goods such as scones and buns, and there’s a ubiquitous drink called Ribena that’s blackcurrant flavored.

The nice thing about this recipe, besides its simplicity, is that you can fine-tune the filling. Citrus peel give you the fruitcake heebee jeebees? Leave it out. Want to spice it up? Add some cinnamon and/or nutmeg. Here’s the variation I used, but you can take creative license with it. Just remember to keep tasting the filling as you’re cooking it.

Recipe: Eccles cakes

Adapted from Tea With Mrs. Simkins

8 tbsp currants (avail. from the bulk bins at Whole Foods)

3 tbsp butter

3 tbsp brown sugar (or more, to taste)

1 tbsp water

Finely grated lemon zest of 1/2 lemon

1 sheet of ready-made puff pastry (I got mine from the freezer case of Trader Joe’s, a 9″x9″ sheet)

1 egg, beaten

1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg (optional)

1 tbsp sugar in the raw to sprinkle on top (optional. Use any large-grain sugar you have on hand.)

Directions

Cook the currants, sugar, butter, water, lemon zest, and nutmeg in a small pan, stirring constantly until the sugar has lost its graininess and the currants are plumping up nicely (about 5 minutes). Taste the mixture before you turn off the heat to see if it could use additional sugar, spices, etc. Let mixture cool.

Defrost the puff pastry (less than 10 min. at room temp, or defrost in the fridge during the warmer months). Cut the sheet into four 3″x3″ squares with a non-serrated knife. Put a couple spoonfuls of the cooled currant mixture into each square. Brush 2 adjacent edges with the beaten egg, then fold over the edges diagonally to make a triangle shape. Press the edges together to seal. Brush the top of each triangle with the egg wash, and sprinkle with the sugar in the raw.

Bake at 375 degrees on a greased baking sheet (or use parchment paper) until the tops are nice and brown Since ovens vary, start checking them around the 12-minute mark. I ended up baking mine about 20 minutes.

Makes 4 eccles “cakes.”

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