Wigs go right back to the Middle Ages when a ‘wig’ meant a ‘wedge’. Bakers would make a sweetened cake using yeast as a raising agent, making cuts so that wedge shapes were made. This recipe is from Elizabeth David’s book, English Bread and Yeast Cookery – a classic work that I do not own yet! – and is a Seventeenth Century recipe. Eating sweet cakes really took off in that period of history as people realised that sweet cakes and breads went really nice with morning or afternoon tea. It was during this time that Teatime or High Tea came into being and a whole chapter of English Food is devoted to it. This is a good recipe to try if you’ve never made bread before as there is no kneading, er, needed!
To make your own wigs start off by creaming half an ounce of yeast in six fluid ounces of warmed milk. Beat in 12 ounces of plain flour (not strong white flour – this is more of a cake than a bread) to form a loose dough before mixing in four ounces of softened butter. Next, mix in 4 ounces of caster sugar and ½ teaspoon each of mixed spice and ground ginger along with two or three teaspoons of caraway seeds. Cover with cling film and allow to rise – a couple of hours should do it. Knock back the dough and divide it between two greased 9 inch sandwich tins, making four cuts (i.e. eight wedges). If the dough is too soft to pick up and handle, add some more flour. Cover the sandwich tins with large billowing polythene bags – you don’t want bag to touch dough – and let the wigs prove for 20 – 40 minutes. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 200⁰C. Eat warm.
#227 Wigs. I liked these – not too sweet, and great hot with plenty of butter on them. The genius thing was the addition of caraway seeds. The fragrant nutty taste may not be for everyone, but I really like it. It is a shame they have gone out of favour. These are definitely worth a go, particularly because they are a real little bit of English history. 6/10