Bakestones and welshcakes
Yesterday was St David’s day – a day of celebration for all things Welsh and what could be more Welsh than a welshcake? Deri from the Warren restaurant opposite our shop in Carmarthen popped over with a free sample (http://warrenmanselst.co.uk) very nice it was too – this set us off on our latest blog topic, ‘welshcakes’
Welshcakes (for those not in the know) and gorgeous little flat cakes with sultanas in them that are best eaten as hot as you can manage them. The sultanas will inevitably burn your tongue but that part of the whole experience. Sprinkled with sugar, a little brown and firm on the outside and soft on the inside, they are the taste of my childhood. My brother, sister and I would compete for the next batch served up by our mam.
We spotted these in Tea Traders in Carmarthen. Visit their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/TeaTraders/
Welshcakes are cooked on a bakestone. This is a flat cast iron cooking plate – like a griddle only thicker. The bakestone is also called a ‘planc’ in certain parts of Wales and in North Wales it may be referred to as ‘maen’. (Just to confuse you welshcakes are also themselves sometimes called bakestones).
We get very personal about welshcake recipes; many have been passed on from mother to daughter over the years and are always classed as the ‘proper’ way to make welshcakes. Some people like them with a little nutmeg included, some with all spice, some cinnamon. I personally don’t like anything in my welshcakes other than the basic standard ingredients. As well as being served straight off the bakestone welshcakes can also be split and filled with jam or buttered (you can actually hear your arteries clogging at the thought of buttered, sugared, jam filled bakestones).The bakestone is heated on top of the stove. welshcakes take around 4 or 5 minutes per side although there’s no hard or fast rule, the art of cooking the perfect welshcake is something that is only achieved by experience. The thickness of the dough and the cooking time are the two most important elements. Rolled too thin they will cook too quickly, too thick and they won’t cook properly in the middle. Cook them for too long and they will dry out, not long enough and they will be gooey in the centre. It takes practice and a lot of consumption of the mistakes to get it just right but once you have the knack you will be flipping welshcakes by the dozen.
The Wales Tourist Board site Visit Wales has a good basic welshcake recipe online that is pretty much the same as the one my mam used – except she never used to weigh any of the ingredients, she knew just by looking what the proportions were. You can read the Visit Wales recipe here http://www.visitwales.com/explore/traditions-history/recipes/welsh-cakes
Not in Wales? Don’t despair, the Welshcake girls, Jo and Amy, are on a mission to convert Londoners to Welshcakes. https://www.thewelshcakegirls.com/ You can even buy from them online. We love their Instagram pictures – guaranteed to ruin any diet.More recently we have seen welshcake experimentation with everything from chocolate chips to laver bread (yes savoury welshcakes – who would have thought!) Fabulous Welshcakes in Cardiff do an amazing array of welshcake mixtures including lemon, maple pecan, lime and coconut. They even do diabetic and gluten free varieties. They really are well worth a visit if you are in the capital city of Wales https://www.fabulouswelshcakes.co.uk/our-cakes
Of course at the heart of a good welshcake is a good bakestone. We source and sell vintage and antique bakestones and have developed a reputation for the being the place to visit in Carmarthen if you are looking for a bakestone. (We've even had one go off to Canada with a holidaymaker). We usually have several in stock – they may range from small one or two person bakestones through to humungous great big plancs that could feed a small village. We clean them up, removing rust and grinding down surfaces as necessary. Many old bakestones have marks and flaws on the surface from the casting. These don’t affect their use and we like the individuality of old bakestones. There is something very satisfying about giving a second life to a cooking item that may well have been used 100 years ago.
Your bakestone will require reproofing before use. This involves giving it a good scrub (we recommend one of those ‘scrubby’ sponges used for washing cooking pans) then drying it thoroughly and then you can either rub it with oil and place it in the oven at about ......for....or proof it on the stove top. The addition of salt to the oil blackens new bakestones, producing the characteristic cooking surface. Once proofed/reproofed your bakestone should not be stripped clean again, just clean it and wipe it over with a little oil. Be warned,stove top proofing will create smoke so open the windows and put the extractor fan on first.
Oakden specialise in modern reproductions of English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh cookware, baking plates, griddles and bakestones. Their website has clear instructions on how to season a bakestone http://oakden.co.uk/seasoning-a-bakestone/
So, if you haven’t got a bakestone already, drop us a line and find out what we have in stock at the moment. Dust that rolling pin off, get that pinny on, roll up those sleeves and get making.