Eccles cakes are small patties made from flaky pastry wrapped around a sticky filling of spiced currants. As the name suggests, they are believed to have originated in the town of Eccles near Manchester in the north of England.
- 500g plain flour
- 300g butter, chilled in the freezer for an hour or so
- A pinch of salt
For the pastry:
- Sieve the flour into a mixing bowl and add the salt. Grate the very cold butter into the flour using the coarse side of a hand grater.
- Adding a few tablespoons of water and start bringing the ingredients together with a spatula or wooden spoon to create a dough. You will probably need to add more water to achieve this, but you don't want to over-do it, so add a little at a time. As it comes together you can use your hands, but try to handle it as little as possible. The strands of grated butter should remain reasonably intact – squishing the pastry with warm hands will tend to blend it into the dough.
- Once the pastry is done, wrap it in clingfilm and put it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Now you can make the filling.
- 220g currants
- 70ml orange juice or brandy
- 40g soft brown sugar
- A nugget of butter – about 10g if you must measure
- 1 tsp grated nutmeg
- 1 tsp allspice
For the filling:
- Put the currants in a flat-bottomed bowl or container and pour over the orange juice or brandy. Leave to soak for at least a couple of hours, preferably overnight.
- Transfer the fruit to a small pan, along with the sugar, butter and spices. If you’re using orange juice, drain some of it off; you can leave the brandy in as it will evaporate more quickly. Heat the mixture on medium until the butter and sugar has melted and the liquid has reduced and become sticky. Be careful not to let it burn. Now transfer to a bowl and leave until cool.
- Roll out the pastry to a thickness of about 5mm on a well-floured worksurface. Using a plain round cutter about 9cm in width, stamp out circles. This recipe will make about 12 cakes.
- Place a tablespoon of the fruit filling in the centre of each disc. It’s very sticky, so you will probably need a second spoon to scrape it off. Gather up the edges of each disc with your fingertips and bring them together, drawing the edges closed over the filling.Squish the pastry together to seal the casing.
- Place the Eccles cake on the floured worksurface and, with the heel of your hand, press it gently but firmly down to flatten it slightly. Turn it over so that the sealed edges are underneath and place it on a tray lined with baking parchment. Some people cut three slashes in the pastry, but I prick each cake a couple of times with a fork instead.
- Brush each Eccles cake with a little milk and then sprinkle the sugar over. Now bake in an oven pre-heated to 200°c for 20-25 minutes, keeping an eye on them to make sure they don’t burn. They should be golden brown when done.