Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tea for Two (or Three, or Four...)

Another one from the archives: Welsh Tea Cakes! I made these about a month ago, just before my ankle surgery. I had a very busy week scheduled, after a very busy week before that, and realized that I finally had one day when nothing was going on. I pledged to do whatever I felt like that day (plus a load of laundry and tidying whatever mess I made), and decided that I felt like baking. I pulled out a recipe that I've had for years, and peeked in the pantry for a way to enhance it. The recipe was for a Welsh Tea Loaf, molasses-flavored and raisin-studded. Normally molasses and raisins are two big hints that something will be delicious, at least to my mind, which is I'm sure why I saved the recipe in the first place, but when I have made it in the past, the flavor was lacking. It was good, but muted; it needed some tweaking. I wanted the molasses flavor to be much stronger, but without the hint of bitterness that lots of molasses can sometimes impart. I also didn't want to drastically alter the texture of the loaf by adding so much extra liquid. Moistness is nice, but I didn't want a sog-fest. A rummage through the pantry revealed a small bag of dark muscovado sugar left over from gingerbread baking last Christmas. Muscovado has big molasses flavor without so much of the moisture, so it was exactly what I wanted. I replaced two thirds of the white sugar in the recipe with the muscovado, and baked it in muffin tins instead of an 8x8" square. 
The little tea cakes came out perfectly! Moist, with rich molasses flavor, they were just what I had been hoping for. Hubband didn't like the original recipe when I made it for him way back when, but he just couldn't get enough of this more flavorful version. Who knows if this cake is authentically Welsh or not, but it certainly goes wonderfully with tea, or coffee for that matter. They were even better when eaten outside in the garden, slathered with homemade strawberry preserves. 
Homemade strawberry preserves? Yes, a few months ago Hubband and I ventured south a little bit and found a hydroponic strawberry farm, where we picked about 15 lbs. Mom came over a few nights later when Hubband was out and we washed, hulled, diced, simmered, and canned all fifteen pounds (with a few set aside to roast in balsamic for ease of future ice cream batches). It was my first time canning, and pressure-canning at that. Each jar sealed tightly, and after dividing them up with Mom, using them on pancakes and toast, and on these tea-cakes, we still have some to spare. I think we'll certainly be doing that again. Especially when you do it like this:
with a strawberry-basil-lemonade cocktail on the side! 

Welsh Tea Cakes
adapted from goodness-knows-where

I kept it simple for this first time, but I think adding cardamom, cloves, and/or a bit of nutmeg would be really nice as well!

2 2/3 C water
12 oz raisins
4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 C butter, softened
1 C dark muscovado sugar
1/2 C granulated sugar
3 eggs
2 Tbs unsulphured molasses
1 Tbs vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
4 C AP flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine water and raisins in a saucepan and place over medium heat. Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat to simmer for 2 minutes, to plump the raisins slightly. After two minutes, remove from the heat and add the baking soda. Set aside to cool. Cream together the butter and sugars, then add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. When incorporated, add the cooled raisins, cooking liquid, molasses, salt, and vanilla. Mix, then add the flour and mix until incorporated. Pour into a greased 8x8 pan or divide among 24 greased muffin cups. Bake 50-60 minutes for 8x8, 30-35 for muffin tins. Once baked, let cool in pan (8x8) or turn out onto wire racks (muffin tin). 

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