Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Soul Cakes Recipe

soul cakes
A soul! A soul! A soul-cake!
Please good Missis, a soul-cake!
An apple, a pear, a plum, or a cherry,
Any good thing to make us all merry.
One for Peter, two for Paul
Three for Him who made us all.

Soul cakes are traditional treats that are basically round, spiced cookie biscuits. Recipes can vary and may also include dried fruits. Most often, you’ll see them marked with a cross to represent a soul being freed from Purgatory. They were made for All Saints Day or All Soul’s Day to celebrate and remember the dead, and the tradition still survives to this day.

Adults and children of the olden days would go "souling" for one of these treats. To earn a soul cake, one would go door-to-door singing songs, saying prayers for home owners, and performing other tasks to receive one. It became a tradition that greatly influenced trick-or-treating in the U.S., as immigrants brought their customs with them and continued to celebrate.

Recipes can vary widely, but this is my favorite. Depending on whose recipe you use, they may come out more like cakes. These are more like cookie biscuits, and are somewhat comparable to gingerbread.

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup soft butter
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 2 tsp of white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 2 tsp of white wine vinegar

You may be able to find mixed spice at the grocery store or a specialty store. If not, you’ll need to make some yourself. For that, you’re going to need one of those little blender things for spices. Since I don’t have one of those, I just emptied a pepper grinder and ground the spices, measured them, placed them in an airtight jar, and gave it a good shake. Some things you can find already powdered, like the ginger. 

Mixed Spice
  • 1 Tbs ground allspice
  • 1 Tbs ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbs ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground Ginger

I prefer this mix, but have also seen other recipes that include mace and coriander. I’ve never seen mace in the spice aisle, and I have allergies to coriander. If you’d want to add them in, I’d say maybe 2 tsp of ground mace and 1 tsp of ground coriander. Remember, measure after you grind!

Getting Ready

  • Don’t preheat your oven (400°F) yet, or you’ll just be wasting energy. The dough will need to be refrigerated for half an hour.
  • Make sure you’ve got all your spices and ingredients to prevent any mad dash to the store in the middle of things. If you’re grinding your own spices for the mixed spice, that may take a while. So, give yourself plenty of time to get all this done.
  • Line two baking trays/sheets with aluminum foil (to me, this is easier), or grease two baking trays/sheets.
  • Search the house for a round cookie cutter, like one of those nice pastry ones. Don’t have one? Find a mason jar and pop the lid off. This works better if it’s one of those lids where the center comes out.

Getting It Together

  • Mix all the dry ingredients together until they are well-mixed and everything looks decently uniform.
  • Mix the butter into the dry mix until the mixture looks like little bread crumbs. It’s best to do this with a fork and just keep jabbing/smashing it.
  • Once it’s all crummy looking, add the egg and vinegar and mix until you’ve made a firm dough.
  • Cover the dough and stash it in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
  • You’ll want to decide when to start preheating your oven, depending on how long yours takes to preheat. I just turned mine on while I was cutting out the soul cakes. Preheat to 400°F.

Creating The Soul Cakes

  • Flour your work surface and rolling pin.
  • Dump out the dough onto your work surface, and roll out to about 1/4” thickness.
  • Get your round pastry cutter/cookie cutter/jar lid and make use of your space as best you can. Work quickly, as warm dough is trickier to deal with.
  • Ball up whatever spare dough you have left after the first cutting and roll and cut. If you still have a little left, just form that by hand into a ball and smash it to match the rest of the soul cakes.
  • If you wish to place the cross on them, you can do so lightly with a butter knife. Raisins or other dried fruit may also be arranged on the top. I haven’t tried that, though. I would assume that you would probably need to soak them first, then make sure to press them into the dough.
  • Bake the soul cakes until they become golden brown. Depending on how large you cut them, that will affect your baking time. I prefer to just keep checking on mine every 5 minutes or so. Each batch usually takes about 15 minutes or so, for me.

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