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Posts tagged ‘Sunday Baking’

Sunday Baking: Seeking Sally Lunn

On a bright October 2018 morning in Bath, England, I set out in search of Sally Lunn’s Eating House, a bakery and dining room built in 1482, reportedly existing as a bakery since circa 1680. The story goes that a young Huguenot refugee by the name of Solange Luyon came to Bath around 1680 and found work in the kitchen of a bakery. She had also brought a recipe from home for a brioche-like bun that gained popularity as a base for sweet and savoury toppings. Today, Sally Lunn’s Eating House describes it as “part bun, part bread, part cake… A large and generous but very very light bun”.

In New Zealand a Sally Lunn is a sweet bread roll, and domestic recipes are bulked up with leftover mashed potato, dotted with raisins and spread with a thick, sweet layer of icing, dusted with coconut to stop it from sticking to the bag. It can also be referred to as a Boston Bun, especially in the South Island. In Bath, it is entirely different: an enriched but otherwise plain bun, served in halves with a sweet or savoury topping.

And then I found a recipe for a New Zealand Bun in the 4th edition of the Edmonds Cookery Book, which has been digitised by the National Library, so that we can all explore its contents. It’s a recipe for enriched bread rolls, really, with flour, sugar and a little

Recipe for New Zealand Buns, Edmond’s “Sure to rise”cookery book, 4th ed, National Library of New Zealand.

The recipe intrigued me – it seemed like a scone, and had a very similar list of ingredients for other Sally Lunn recipes in books from my own collection: the use of a breakfast cup of flour, sugar and butter and leavened with baking powder instead of yeast. So naturally, I had to make some.

A breakfast cup equates to about 190g of flour. I rubbed in 90g of butter, added a headed teaspoon of baking poweder, a spoon of raw sugar, egg and around 75ml of milk. This was then divided into 6 rolls, and baked at 200° Celsius for 15 minutes. The buns can out and were quickly gobbled up, and are particularly good with even more butter, some jam and a cup of tea.

Freshly baked New Zealand buns
A very similar recipe for Sally Lunns, Victoria League of Auckland, Tried Recipes, 5th ed.

But neither of these recipes are anything like a modern Kiwi Sally Lunn, or like the version sold at Sally Lunn’s bakery.

In the UK the buns are enormous, easily a hand span across. They weren’t as sweet as we expected from something promoted as being like brioche, and the texture was a bit dusty, as though the gluten hadn’t been encouraged to develop. In Bath we were told they were typically eaten with a knife and fork. The myth around the buns is fascinating: Sally Lunn’s Eating House says is because the recipe was passed on (3rd paragraph) with the deeds to the house. They contradict themselves several pages on, stating that the recipe was discovered in a secret cupboard during renovation s in the 30s. Sally Lunns are also reputed to have killed an acquaintance of one Phillip Thicknesse, who wrote in 1780: “I had the misfortune to lose a beloved brother in the prime of life, who dropt down dead as he was playing on the fiddle at Sir Robert Throgmorton’s, after drinking a large quantity of Bath Waters, and eating a hearty breakfast of spungy hot rolls, or Sally Luns“. This anecdote is the first record of Sally Lunns in the Oxford English Dictionary, which indicates that the buns had definitely been known about and referred to in speech prior to its first written record, and that a recipe for them existed.

To complicate things a little further, you can also get Bath Buns in bath: sweet, yeast-risen rolls with sugar nibs on top. They were reportedly developed to help offset the flavour of Bath’s famed spring water, which is actually revolting. Whether or not they helped is questionable: Jane Austen complained that she “disordered my stomach with Bath Bunns” in January 1801. By 1851 and The Great Exhibition Bath Buns had become heavier and fruited, named the London Bath Bun, which sold nearly a million pieces in five and a half months. These various buns and their popularity over the centuries show that sweet and enriched breads are an English favourite, and that New Zealand took on its own version with the New Zealand bun in the 1924 release of the Edmonds Cookbook.

Sunday Baking: Leek Pie

Leeks are a fabulous vegetable that is part of the onion family, popular in Ancient Egypt, Rome and Mesopotamia. They’re one of the National emblems of Wales, and it turns out they make a darn good pie. I’ve been going for sweet the last few Sundays, but baking can also be savoury!

This week’s recipe comes from the 1963 of the British compilation cookbook Farmhouse Fare, which contains all recipes that had been published in the earlier editions of the book, which was so popular in England that it sold out each time it was printed in 1935, 1946 and 1947. Containing recipes from farmhouse kitchens across the UK, former editor Mary Day wrote that “there could be no more eloquent tribute to the traditional cookery of our own country”.

Recipe for Leek Pie, Farmer’s Fare, 1963.

Kiwi leeks are enormous, but not as large as the quantity requested in the recipe – naively, I thought one big leek would be enough, but that only was a pound’s worth. In sheer laziness I added a big onion to the pot to boil, as they are from the same family. I also doubled the amount of egg and cream, making something not quite what Mrs Tremayne did, but a delicious pie nonetheless that’s perfect for lunch or a light supper.

I did make a seconf version of the leek pie following the recipe, but it actually was’t as good as the version in the book – a little too leeky, and not as complex. This is the version I recommend:

Leek Pie done wrong

  • 400-500 g Leek
  • 200g onion
  • 225g cream
  • 100g sweet-cure bacon
  • 4 large eggs

Chop the leeks into half-rounds about 2cm wide, and roughly chop the onion. Boil until tender, which will take less than 5 minutes. Drain the veg, and leave it to cool. Whisk together the cream and eggs, add the chopped bacon and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Once the leek is cool enough to touch, mix it in with the egg mixture in a pie dish. Top with some shortcrust pastry – I used this recipe from the BBC – brush with milk, and bake at 180° Celsius for about half an hour to 40 minutes.

The pie will puff up during baking, bulging and bronze in the oven. Leave it to cool a little before serving. We also found it was excellent for lunch or even as a hurried breakfast in the days that followed, and was particularly good with a dollop of chutney on the side.

Sunday Baking: lost cakes of yesteryear

Cake – we eat it to celebrate, to commiserate, and even just because. In 2019 ran a poll to see which cake falvours were most loved in New Zealand. Popular options included chocolate, banana, and carrot cakes -the staples of the cafe cabinet. But what caught the eye of my friend Emily was the less popular options, all of which come of a certain vintage and who enjoyed popularity in the past century, but no more. Citrus cakes like lemon and orange, fruit cake, madeira cake, sponge cake and marble cake all polled under 10% each. Some might be justified, but for the most part these cakes are suffering a tired image and have lost favour.

I’m actually not surprised by marble cake polling at 0%. It doesn’t have a distinct flavour, but it does have a colourful interior. But, in my copy of the Victoria League of Auckland’s 1937 copy of Tried Recipes, the page number for both marble and Madeira cakes are handwritten at the top of the page of contents for speedy finding. It was a sign – I needed to make a marble cake.

Photo – recipe & noted pages

I was surprised by the lack of a chocolate swirl in the cake – my childhood marble cake baking from the Edmond’s Cookbook included one third plain, one third red and one third brown batter. To be fair, it wasn’t really the most attractive combination, but marble cakes do exist in popular culture, but with a different name. This version, with its red and white is quite simple, although the instructions to spread three layers of batter one atop each other was fiddly – I did my best but gave it a swirl to try and make it more marbled.

The marble cake has a German and American Heritage, and seems to have been adopted into Jewish cookery as well. In Nigella Lawson’s Feast, she includes a marble cake recipe in the Funeral section: the recipe was provided by a Jewish friend who explained a marble was customary for shiva, prompting Nigella to muse over whether it was in anticipation of the marble headstone.

Going further back, the marble cake can trace its ancestry to a German cake called Marmorkuchen, which was flavoured with molasses, spices, dried fruit and coffee, partially mixed with plain batter and baked. The first English reference that’s been found to Marble Cake is in America: according to Poppy and Prune, the term ‘marble cake’ was first recorded in English in the September 29, 1859, issue of the Illinois State Chronicle. Recipes have been found from 1864 (a molasses and spice version) and 1889 with Chocolate.

In New Zealand, an early marble cake recipe can be found on Papers Past with a recipe in the July 1885 ediotion of the Wairapapa Standard with a molasses tinted batter. A recipe for the cake with a trio of shades was published in 1901 recipe, a red-and white recipe from 1907, was included in a gas cookery demonstration in 1918 and was regularly published in Newspapers in 1931, 1933, 1939, and of course, the recipe I made above in 1937. There would be many more recipes in cookbooks publised in New Zealand, but suffice to say this cake was well loved.

I had a final nod to my 1937 cake to bring it into the modern era, icing it – although it really was almost too pretty to ice – with a marbled, mirror glaze so beloved on instagram.

Sunday Baking: Belgian Biscuits

There’s no denying that the kiwi Belgian Biscuit is an instantly recognisable member of a bakery’s display cabinet. Spiced biscuits, sandwiched with raspberry jam and crowned with pink icing, they’re a sweet treat that were renamed for patriotic reasons during the first World War.

I’ve been intrigued by Belgian biscuits since I read the the story of Jim Fish, a Southland baker who had been baking for sixty years. His secret was to use cassia to spice the biscuits, instead of cinnamon, which is more commonly used. But what’s the difference? Confusingly, cassia and cinnamon both come from the same tree, both from the bark as well. The difference is that cinnamon is the inner bark, has a more subtle flavour, and will coil over itself into a straight telescope, or break into shards. Cassia is the outer bark, tan in colour, and the edges curve inward to the centre like binoculars. It has a more robust flavour, which is why Jim Fish likely recommended it, to give the biscuits more punch.

I used a recipe from one of my older Edmonds cookbooks, possibly from the 60s, which asks for a mix of spice, and doesn’t specify the pink icing on top – instead, it just states that the biscuits be iced and topped with a cherry or angelica.

The name Belgian (or Belgium) comes from after the World Wars, when German foods (places, and people) were renamed with more patriotic or local titles. Belgium biscuits were known as German or Linzer Biscuits, but were quickly renamed in allied countries – becoming the Empire Biscuit in the UK or Belgian/-um in Scotland and New Zealand, in solidarity with the invaded Belgium.

Typically in the UK an Empire biscuit is two rounds of shortbread, topped with white icing and a cherry, making it look like what New Zealand calls a ‘shrewsbury’. In New Zealand, shrewsbury biscuits have a window in the top biscuit to see the jam below. In the UK, shrewsbury biscuits have currants and lemon, can be eaten as a pudding and are an entirely different kettle of fish.

Along the way, kiwi Belgian biscuits acquired a pink icing, or a white icing dusted with raspberry jelly. The recipe I used was from somewhere in the mid-Century, and so still had the white icing decorated with a cherry, leaving them to look quite festive, and a little like a bakewell tart. They lost the shortbread base and became spiced.

I took the chance to dig through some of my other cook books, and found a range of recipes, all on a similar theme of a cinnamon-spiced biscuit, sandwiched with jam and iced:

Belgian Biscuits, fro the Self Help Wartime Cookery book.
Belgium Biscuits from The Victoria League’s Tried Recipes, 5th ed.
Belgian Biscuits, from a book that has lost its cover, so I refer to it as Cookery, as that title sits in the header of each left page.

So there you have it – an incomplete and meandering look at the Belgian Biscuit. I have to confess that the versions I bought to sample while researching this post were actually quite disappointing, so if you’re ambivalent about biscuits I suggest trying an older recipe for some Sunday entertainment and as a much sweeter and tastier treat.

Another bakery-sold Belgian Biscuit.

Sunday Baking: Tomato Soup Cake

I have a great love of strange and kooky recipes, and honestly fell head over heels with the idea of a tomato soup cake when I spied it on Instagram. Add the fact that my birthday was coming up and I that I have a habit of presenting friends with strange cakes for theirs, it only made sense to bake one and delight terrorise my colleagues.

The recipe is taken almost exactly from the Campbell Soup website, which has a detailed history into the cake’s origins. In my version I substituted the lard for butter, and omitted the raisins.

An earlier recipe and the inspiration
 Tomato Spice Cake

2 Tbsp butter

1 C sugar

2 C flour

1 tsp mixed spice

1x 420ml can condensed soup

1 tsp baking soda

Preheat your oven to 180°C with a shelf set on the middle rung. Butter and line a cake tin and set aside.

Cream the butter sugar and mixed spice until it’s grainy and blended. Sift the flour on top of the sugar blend.

Add the baking soda to the tin of soup and mix until you see the colour change from red to orange, which is caused by tiny bubbles. Baking soda reacts with acid, and the soup has that aplenty. Quickly add the soup to the remaining ingredients and mix until you’re just beyond where you’d mix a muffin: the lumps are gone but it’s not perfectly smooth. Spoon into the cake tin and gently slide into the oven. Bake for around 35 minutes, checking regularly thereafter to test it with a skewer.

The cake will go from Halloween orange to the most beautiful shade of sienna, and your house will smell of sugar, spice and rich tomato: strange, but not in an unwelcome way. The flavour is of rich spice and umami: deep and comforting.

One it is cool, blend 250g cream cheese with 170g icing sugar and the zest and juice of 1 or 2 limes (depending on how big and juicy they are), and ice as you wish.

The best part about strange cakes like this is getting to play with the icing. I opted for a relatively safe cream cheese and lime frosting, but dabbled with the idea of including basil as well. Other temptations included playing up the tomato aspect and dressing it like it was a spiced tomato juice, adding some Worcester sauce to the batter and adding a spicy frosting. Then I went one step further and seriously contemplated adding vodka, à la Bloody Mary. This cake lends itself to play and cream cheese is an excellent companion for the rich flavour.

Soup cake 1
Crumb shot

The recipe first appeared as a depression era recipe somewhere around the 1920s to 30s, and adapted itself well to wartime households with rationing on eggs and butter. Also known as Mystery Cake, the recipe often includes raisins and acts as a spiced fruit cake, which I imagine would work quite well. I didn’t add raisins because I had run out and couldn’t be bothered making a run to the supermarket late at night. I imagine it would be wonderful with fruit, but I love the fact that this version really just lets the tomato sing.

My colleagues all expressed reservations about the cake, and yet by 4pm both had been gobbled up and I had multiple requests for the recipe. Many people went back for seconds and it was even a hit with children, who gobbled it down. I imagine it would be a brilliant birthday cake option for a tomato sauce-obsessed child. We all agreed that the tomato wasn’t unwelcome, in fact it was heartening and moreish. The crumb was beautiful and it was the perfect, toothsome level of moist.

I was worried as the Cambell’s recipe above called for it to be baked for an hour, and some reviews said that even baking for 35 minutes was too long and left the cake dry. My best explanation is that ovens have continued to improve in terms of heat reliability and efficiency and that an hour certainly is too long for a modern oven. That said, you should also spend some time baking so that you can learn the quirks of your oven, and I recommend checking in with a skewer after 30 minutes.

I would absolutely bake this cake again. Modern renditions have become more elaborate, but this is a cake perfect for tight budgets and busy brains. For those watching their intake, a one-twelfth slice of the recipe above (without icing, and it’s still tasty without) comes out at about 860 kilojoules, or 205 calories.

I had my doubts, but I’m sold!

Further reading:

New York Times Mystery Cake

University of Chicago Press

The Enduring Allure of Tomato Soup Cake, The Kitchn