The dessert course for The Best Meal Ever included an Eccles Cake, a pastry so sublime that my better half vowed to recreate it at home. So please welcome this guest post from She Who Must Be Obeyed:
It was time to leave St. John after an incredible meal. You’ve read all the particulars in this blog so I will not rewrite what David has described so well, except to add that it was difficult to drag myself away from the table with some of my St. John’s Eccles cake left on my plate. These thoughts ran swiftly thorough my brain: I can not eat another bite…well, perhaps one more bite…no, I will not make myself sick…wait — we have the cookbook at home, I’ll make some as soon as we get back. With that decision made, I left St. John and eventually found a Saturday when I could bake. David writes about cooking — I write about baking (and eating).
I wanted this post to be in as much detail as David’s usually are, but I can’t do that, so I think I’ll show some highlights and moan about the one thing I didn’t do consistently, and brag that in the end my result was almost as tasty as the original. In the end I know that while it will surely be some time before I can get back to St. John itself, I can enjoy Eccles cakes when I need them!
Immediately after we arrived home I pulled out the The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating and looked up the St. John’s Eccles cake recipe (page 180). It seemed so straightforward1 that I could taste the cakes even before I began.
As you can see from the picture above, some of my crimps gave way in Whole Beast version and I experienced a leaking problem from a few cakes. It turns out that there is a failure point in the original recipe and I’m confident that I found it!
If we had Beyond Nose to Tail in the kitchen, rather on the to-be-read stack, I might have seen the following on page 121:
It’s good to put things right.
Since the first book, Nose to Tail Eating, I have changed the way we assemble the Eccles cake. Rather than sandwiching two discs of puff pastry together, we now use a single disc approximately 9cm in diameter. So place your Eccles cake mix in the centre of the disc and pull up the sides of the pastry to cover the filling. Seal it with your fingers, then turn it over and slash the top.
(Note that the updated St. John’s Eccles cake recipe was also run in The Guardian on November 27, 2007.)
Let this be a lesson to everyone – always do your research. The photo below is from round two, made with the leftover dough and filling, and using the new technique.
In the end since the recipes were identical, the taste was perfect with both versions. I look at all of these pictures now and still can still taste every bite. However, do yourself a favor and follow tradition, these cakes are “particularly fine when consumed with Lancashire cheese.” Tradition rarely tastes so wonderful.
1David wanted me to include this note. He felt the recipe was not a clear as it could be on turning and rolling out the dough but I think that anyone with pastry experience should have little trouble following the instructions. If you need a refresher, The Joy of Cooking shows you how in the puff pastry section. My one suggestion is that if you really think you’ll get confused on the next roll direction, put a Post-It on the side before you put it in the refrigerator.