Monday, 2 July 2012

Back in the Kitchen: Rock Cakes

For the past few days I've been nursing a cold which, unsurprisingly, has left me with very little desire to do anything as strenuous as cooking. Or eating, really. Anything that might get in the way of my busy schedule of sneezing, coughing, and napping.

Two days on diet of ham sandwiches and Ben and Jerry's frozen yoghurt and enough was enough. It was time to get back on the horse (or at least out of the bed). I decided to start with something simple, though. Nothing adventurous, just a recipe that I've made often enough that it has a comforting ritualistic familiarity to it: Rock Cakes.

Although I'm still not sure why these are called "Rock Cakes" (I'm sorry, they just don't look like rocks, however I look at them), I remember my mom making them when I was little (big enough to get in the way, little enough to not be much help!) I also remember that she used to replace the raisins in half of every batch with crystallized ginger, an ingredient I've developed a taste for in later years but which, at the time, my sister and I both detested. Vocally. As I've grown older and more wily, it has occurred to me that this could well have been a simple tactical move on my mother's part, guaranteeing herself a fair share of the goodies. Well played, mother. Well played.

In the years since I've begun baking myself, I've made Rock Cakes several times and experimented by using a variety of dried fruit-- raisins, apricots, cranberries-- and they've all turned out equally scrumptious. Buttery with a crunchy outside and a soft inside. They're another of those treats that, with little effort, can be tweaked to personal tastes. And they make a very tasty teatime snack!

Rock Cakes
1 cup self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
113 grams butter (1/2 cup) at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup dried fruit (raisins, currents, dried cranberries, etc.)
1 egg
1-3 tablespoons milk

Sift together the flour and baking powder and then cut in the butter in cubes. Rub the butter into the flour with your fingers until it's roughly the consistency of rough breadcrumbs.

Add the sugar and dried fruit and thoroughly combine.

Add the egg and mix well. Begin adding the milk, a tablespoon at a time, until the mixture is thoroughly combined-- not so dry that it crumbles apart and not so wet that you have a puddle of milk and egg! It's been pretty humid here lately, so I only needed one tablespoon, but at other times I've had to use all three.

Spoon scoops of about two tablespoons each, spaced about an inch and a half apart, on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes at 200° C (390° F) until lightly browned. Let the cakes cool on the baking tray for a few minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.

I got 16 cakes, on the small side.

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