Little Welsh cakes.

flag-mini-Wales Quick ... name a Welsh dish.
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Wait, did you really just think Tom Jones?? Well okay, T.J. might be dishy to some, but I expected you to think something like "Welsh rarebit" which is, in fact, an actual Welsh dish -- the kind you eat, not toss your knickers at -- only it's "rabbit" not "rarebit" and it doesn't have any rabbit in it, just cheese and mustard and sometimes beer.
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Welsh rabbit (which I grew up calling "rarebit") was the only Welsh dish I ever knew about until I bought my first book of Welsh cooking and discovered pretty little Welsh cakes.
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Welsh cakes -- called "picau ar y maen in the mother tongue -- look like pancakes, and are like a cross between scones and shortbread, slightly sweet, studded with petite currants, and cooked on a griddle or a bakestone. (or a "girdle" as they used to say)
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And boy are they Welsh! It seems like they are a Welsh national culinary treasure, and you can’t visit Wales without sampling Welsh cakes.
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These sweet cakes combine simple, inexpensive ingredients -- butter, flour, sugar, currants, spices, egg -- and an unfussy cooking method into tasty little treats.
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They couldn’t be simpler to mix up, roll out, shape and cook with just a little oil, butter or a spritz of cooking spray. Ideally, they are cooked on a well-seasoned cast iron Welsh bakestone, but those are hard to come by in these parts so a griddle or non-stick frying pan will do.
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The cakes cook quickly and disappear before you know it, leaving delightful sugar dust on your fingertips. They would benefit by a little cinnamon or nutmeg in the dough, and perhaps mixed in with the sugar before sprinkling it on the cooked cakes. Otherwise they are perfect with a cup or tea or coffee and best eaten warm off the griddle. They freeze well and reheat nicely if wrapped in foil and popped into the oven or toaster oven.
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Watch this charming video of someone's Grandma Betty making Welsh cakes. Betty reminds me very much of my own mom, although mom's ancestry was Irish. If you listen closely, you might catch Betty saying her bakestone is over 100 years old!
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A real bakestone would be a fun addition to my kitchen tools, along with a Scottish spurtle for making oatmeal. But alas, they are not readily available over here, are heavy and therefore expensive to ship. I was going to ask Santa to send me a bakestone for Christmas, but I think it would seriously weigh down his sleigh, even with his superhuman strength and reindeer power. Someday we'll visit the motherland and bring one home with us.
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I wonder if my Welsh ancestors enjoyed Welsh cakes? They must have. I shipped a few to my dad, whose grandfather David Evans emigrated from Wales to Milwaukee, Wisconsin and ran a general store there for many years.
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Dad loved the cakes, and he has Wales in his blood so he must have an innate taste for good Welsh cooking. Here's hoping great grandfather Evans would like them too.
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David Evans, age 20, 1872.

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Welsh Cakes
From "The Best of Traditional Welsh Cooking" by Annette Yeats

2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup butter, diced
1/2 cup caster or superfine sugar
1/2 cup currants
1 egg
3 Tablespoons milk
superfine (or caster) sugar, for dusting

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl. Work the butter into the flour mixture with your fingertips, a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. (Alternatively, you could process the ingredients in a food processor.) Stir in the superfine sugar and the currants.

Lightly beat the egg, then stir it into the flour mixture along with enough of the milk to make a ball of soft dough.

Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and roll out to about 1/4" thick. Cut out rounds with a 2-1/2" to 3" cutter. Gather up the remnants and re-roll to make more cakes.

Heat a heavy frying pan or griddle over low to medium heat. Melt some butter on the hot pan, or grease with cooking oil or cooking spray. Place cakes on hot greased pan and cook in small batches for about 4-5 minutes each side or until they are slightly risen, golden brown and cooked through.

Transfer cooked cakes to a wire rack, dust with superfine sugar on both sides and leave to cool. Then enjoy with a pot of good tea, your favorite coffee, a tall glass of cold milk, or whatever strikes your fancy. Iechyd da!*

Variations: Add 1/2 teaspoon or more of mixed spices, such as cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, allspice. Also, you can add 1/2 teaspoon or more of vanilla extract into the egg before mixing it with the flour mixture.

*(Yeh-chid dah = Cheers! in Welsh)


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