Chapter 7: Teatime – Completed!

When I started this project, baking wasn’t the seemingly national pastime as it is now since the rise of the behemoth that is The Great British Bake Off, but it was something I liked to do and was okay at, but certainly had a very narrow baking repertoire. I certainly never baked bread or biscuits, my cake-making was average, but I did make a passable shortcrust pastry. After baking my way through the recipes in this chapter, my world was opened up to a vast array of sticky, spicy, sweet and sometimes stodgy treats, many of which are now standards in my own cooking.

Baking #429 Cumberland Currant Cake
People are sick of mass-produced cakes and biscuits devoid of real flavours, covered in single-use plastic wrapping. Many of the recipes were quite obscure then and I wouldn’t have bothered with them normally, they seem less so now as people all over the country are looking to tradition in their home baking. That said, some recipes in the book are still obscure and old fashioned: you still don’t see #227 Wigs, #62 Seed Cake, #274 Saffron Cake or #431 Murrumbidgee Cake. All these recipes can be found within the pages of English Food.

#113 Muffins
The Teatime chapter was a whopper; so big  I had to split it into four parts, otherwise it would have felt like a never-ending task as there were 72 recipes!
I split them into:
·       7.1: Bread (15 recipes)
·       7.2: Cakes & Tarts (35 recipes)
·       7.3: Pancakes & Griddle Cakes (13 recipes)
·       7.4: Biscuits (9 recipes)

Click on the hyper-links to see my reviews of the four sections.

The chapter scored an overall mean score of 7.0, which seems pretty average for the book so far. For those who care (and I know none of you do), here’s a little bar chart showing the mean scores for the chapter as a whole and then the separate subchapters. There are even error bars, don’t say I don’t treat you.

One important thing I learnt was that Teatime treats are not always sweet cakes and biscuits, but sandwiches made with a variety of breads, toast, muffins and crumpets.

There are blurred lines between my distinctions too; cakes used to be leavened with yeast before the advent of chemical raising agents so there is a continuum between bread and cake, cake and tart, tart and biscuit, biscuit and cake.

#186 Cheese and Oat Biscuits

But where does our obsession with teatime come from?

Well, tea had been drunk in Britain from around 1660; Charles II enjoyed a cuppa char every now and again, that’s for sure. However, it was extremely expensive and only the richest of folk could afford this exotic Chinese drink. It only really started to catch on when Assam tea plants were discovered to be growing in India in the 1820s. Prior to this, the Chinese had held the whole process of tea growing and drying under a shroud of secrecy. The British could buy their tea much more cheaply – it was also the catalyst for the British occupation of India, but that’s a story for another day. It was still expensive at this point, but the upper and middle-upper classes starting drinking it with gusto.

Anna, 7th Duchess of Bedford
The idea of teatime as we know it originates in the mid-19thcentury when the 7th Duchess of Bedford started asking for tea and bread and butter to be served to her in her room at 4 o’clock. The reason she did this was to quash her hunger pangs as she waited for dinner at 9 o’clock. Then, the only other meal of the day was breakfast. She started inviting her lady friends to enjoy her, and soon her lady friends began their own teatimes and invite other ladies to attend. The Duchess was very prominent in society and was good friends with Queen Victoria, so when her Royal Highness decided to start taking tea in afternoon too, the country went nuts.
The Queen had elaborate teas, and whatever she was doing, and wherever she might have been, she stopped for tea at around 4 o’clock. It would be very common for an en routequeen to stop her carriage and entourage, for a fire to be lit at the roadside, and for her to sup tea and eat the associated treats. She loved travelling and eating but found it much less exciting once her travel occurred mainly by train and there was no need to stop for tea anymore!

Making dough
Ladies had to be seen hosting teatimes and attending teatimes, one must have needed quite some stamina to trawl across the town or village several times so that one could be noticed.
Some disapproved of teatime, Sir Henry Thompson in 1891 said it was an undesirable habit as it was too generous and spoiled the coming dinner. He may well have been right, those poor ladies must have eaten and drank their fill when doing their rounds.
A truly traditional teatime is made up of sandwiches of cold meats and watercress. Cucumber was not originally popular as people regarded it with distain thinking raw cucumber was poisonous. It was also a rigmarole to prepare the sandwiches in advance; just using sliced cucumber made sandwiches soggy, so the slices had be salted overnight to draw out moisture, then rinsed and individually patted dry.

#270 Mereworth Biscuits
Joining the sandwiches were crumpets, muffins, wigs and seed cakes. Seed cakes were very popular because the caraway seeds that went into them were one of the very few spices that could be grown in Europe. There would be lashings of butter, honey and jam too of course.
Sweet sponge cakes like Victoria sponges were not generally eaten by the grown-ups, but instead made up the bulk of the nursery tea, though I’m sure there are many adults today who would prefer it!
I spotted a great reference to a Victorian book called Walsh’s Manual of Domestic Economy, which recommended, as part of a child’s teatime, a wineglass of homebrew to ‘restore health to the most delicate children’. Get that top tip on Mum’s Net!
Personally, I am very glad that home baking and teatime have regained popularity in Britain. I hope it’s not a fad and we all start buying Mr Kipling’s Fondant Fancies again in 18 months’ time or whatever.
Long may it continue!

#278 Crempog Las

Well Shrove Tuesday is almost here, so I thought I’d provide a pancake recipe from English Food. This one is perhaps a more alternative recipe as it is most definitely savoury rather than sweet, and best served up with sausages, bacon and eggs as a breakfast dish rather than for a Pancake Day evening pig-out. In America, people seem to be having much more fun with their Mardi Gras celebrations…
The Welsh seem much more adept at pancakes than the English and I suppose that’s why there are so many Welsh recipes in the Pancakes and Griddle Cakes section of the Teatime chapter of the book. If they weren’t counted, there would be slim pickings. Crempog Las, by the way, translates as green pancakes in Welsh (check out this site for more information on this dish and other Welsh dishes). I didn’t have high hopes as there has been a bad run of recipes from this section…
The other reason why I wanted to cook these pancakes is that I found a pack of sausages that I bought from Harrison Hog Farms. They have a stall at the Rice University Farmers’ Market and breed pigs that look suspiciously like Gloucester Old Spots; a fine old English breed, so I thought they can’t be bad. Naturally, I put in them in the freezer and promptly forgot about them. Even though I have only been in my Texan apartment for five months, I have managed to almost fill my freezer with bits that I see in shops and left overs like wine, egg whites, breadcrumbs and what-not that I expect one day will come in useful. I decided that it needs emptying. It is for the same reason that later on this week I will be doing oxtail soup.
Anyways, I have wittered on far too much:
Using a whisk, mix together four ounces of plain flour, a large egg, a dessertspoon of finely chopped parsley, a heaped teaspoon of finely chopped shallot and enough milk to make a thick batter. Season with salt and pepper. Fry the pancakes in some oil or grease  over a moderately-high heat until golden brown – two or three minutes a side should do it. That’s it. Serve with butter or as part of a fried breakfast.
#278 Crempog Las. These were delicious! A subtle savouriness from the slightly sweet-acrid shallot and the grassy freshness of parsley made them very morish. I am definitely adding these to my breakfast arsenal. Give them a try, they are so very, very easy. 7.5/10.

#260 Potato Cakes

During the working week I try my best to go to the gym and eat sensibly. This isn’t necessarily because I am a health fanatic, it is simply because from around the age of 28, it occurred to me that the old metabolism was grinding down a few gears and I was no longer able to scoff all the nice stodge and chocolate I liked to without becoming a massive fat knacker. And so the gym regime and healthy diet was introduced. However, this was just for five days of the week. The weekend however, is there for me to eat and drink all the things I used to like. It’s a trade-off innit?
Every Sunday whilst I have been in Texas, my breakfast treat has been pancakes and bacon, but today I thought I’d do these potato cakes from English Food. I’ve always associated potato cakes with Irish food – potato farls being an essential part of the Ulster Fry. However it seems that they are/were popular throughout Britain and Ireland.
To make the cakes, mash a pound of boiled potatoes, then mix in an ounce of melted butter, 4 ounces of plain flour, ½ teaspoon salt, a teaspoon of baking powder and – if you like – an egg. Bring all the ingredients together to form a dough that isn’t too sticky to handle and roll it out. Griggers gives us options as to how to cook and eat them: 1) Roll out thinly and cut out saucer-sized circles and cook on a griddle greased with lard, suet or bacon fat. Roll the cooked cakes around little sticks of salty butter. 2) Roll out the dough into ½” thickness and cut out circles with a scone cutter- griddle along with the bacon, sausage and eggs for 15 minutes. 3) Go Welsh: Add 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and another of white sugar to the mixture. I went for the second option.

#260 Potato Cakes. These were great; and very easy to make too. They had a light texture due to the baking powder as well as a nice soft inside without being stodgy. They went perfectly with the sausages and sweet maple-smoked bacon I ate with them. I shall be making these again. 7/10

#119 Gloucester Pancakes

Yesterday was Shrove Tuesday and so to not repeat myself with common or garden crepe style pancakes, I thought I’d be controversial and try a different one. Gloucester pancakes don’t really resemble normal pancakes- they’re more like muffins. A point of note here – we know that Pancake Day exists to use up the fat ready for the onset of Lent, but bloody hell, these contain a LOT of fat – chopped beef and suet AND fried in lard. Oh well, you only live once…

This recipe makes around 8 pancakes:

In a bowl, mix together 6 ounces of flour, a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of baking powder. Then stir in 3 ounces of chopped suet and bind everything together with a beaten egg and some milk to produce a firm dough. Roll out the mixture so that it’s ½ an inch thick and use scone cutters (around 3 ½ inches wide) to cut them out. Fry the pancakes in a little lard on a lowish heat until golden brown – they should rise a little due to the baking powder. Serve hot with plenty of golden syrup.

#119 Gloucester Pancakes – 5/10. Nice, but I probably wouldn’t make them again. In order to turn this around, Charlotte made the Welsh light cakes that we did a few months ago (which I’m thinking about upping to a 10). Yep, I’d definitely rather be in Wales than Gloucester on Pancake Day…

#97 Welsh Light Cakes

For breakfast the next day, Charlotte and I wanted something hot and homely and went down the pancake route. I spotted this one as Charlotte is half-Welsh so I thought it befitting. These are great they’re made from a thickish bubbly batter that contains cream of tartare and soured cream – two secret ingredients. They’re served in quite an American fashion – piled up high with slices takes out of them. Get the made – they’re easy, so you get back much more than you put in!

Beat together 6 rounded tablespoons of plain flour, 2 of sugar and 3 of soured cream along with a pinch of salt and 3 eggs until smooth. Next, mix together ½ teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda and a rounded tablespoon of cream of tartare with 4 tablespoons of water. Quickly add it to the batter and stir in enough milk or buttermilk to make a batter that’s “not too thick” – a tricky one when you’ve no frame of reference; I think the consistency of thick double cream.

Now heat up a frying pan or griddle and add a little oil. Coat the pan and pour off any excess. Ladle a small amount in the centre of the pan to make small pancakes. Don’t swirl them around like crepes, they should be thick. After a minute or two flip it over and cook for another minute. Pile them up on a plate, spreading each one with butter. Serve in wedges with something nice and sweet – maple syrup or, as we used, golden syrup.

#97 Welsh Light Cakes or Pancakes – 9/10. Officially my favourite pancake. I know you can make crepes with normal average store-cupboard ingredients, but these are something special. Light, fluffy and slightly sour in taste, they went perfectly with the sweet golden syrup. Whenever anyone stays over, these will be made for breakfast every time. Me and Charlotte liked them so much we made seconds! Oink!

#25 Harvest Pancakes for the Poor

I did Pancakes for the Rich a while ago, and so as it was Pancake Day or Shrove Tuesday yesterday. I thought I’d do the Grigson’s recipe for (#25) Harvest Pancakes for the Poor. [I don’t know why the pancakes were meant to be for harvest time, seeing as that’s in September…] Jane Grigson’s recipe is pretty much the same as everyone else, except she puts in ground ginger into hers; which was quite pointless since as you couldn’t taste it! Hey-ho. Anyways, many different fillings were made by me and Greg – some English, some not so English. No matter what fillings I try, nothing beats my two favorites: lemon and sugar, or butter and sugar. Yum!
For the pancakes, make a batter by whisking together 5 ounces of flour with half a pint of either milk or mild ale (!) and an egg plus half a teaspoon of ground ginger. Fry over a high-ish heat using lard or cooking oil to lightly grease the pan (pour off any excess and re-grease for each pancake).

FYI: Shrove Tuesday is the last day of Shrovetide which was a long festival that built up to the forty days of fasting in the lead up until Easter. I wonder if the 40 day fast thing is also a Pagan thing taken over by the early Roman Christians like Easter was? Anyone know??

Also I tried to make ice-cream to go with it, but my ice-cream maker is broken – what a crock of shit. I have had soooo much bad luck lately I’m beginning to think I’m cursed…

#25 Harvest Pancakes for the Poor – 8/10. A very good recipe, though I prefer using some water as well as milk, but that’s what I’m used to. Why-oh-why is there ginger in it?

#13 Pancakes for the Rich

Greg and I thought we needed to stuff our faces with animal fat and sugar so (#13) Pancakes for the Rich (or a Quire of Paper; whatever that means!) was called for. It made 10 pancakes – which were very difficult to fry:

To make the batter beat together 3 ounces of flour, four ounces of melted butter, half a pint of single cream and a large egg along with two tablespoons of brown sherry, a teaspoon of rose or orange-flower water and half a grated nutmeg. Coat a skillet or pan in a very thin layer of oil and fry on both sides until brown. They didn’t go firm like normal pancakes, but squidgy and caramelised because of the butter and the very little egg. After wrestling with them – in order to turn one we had to slide it onto a plate, and upturn it back onto the pan, otherwise they ended up a sad blob of batter. We served some up with sugar; as Grigson suggests, but also had some with lemon juice too.

Was it worth it? Not sure; i think I might prefer poor-man’s pancakes. I think I’ll try her recipe for them soon. But Pancakes for the rich were interesting, particularly for the addition of the beautifully fragrant orange-flower water.

Greg says:
#13 Pancakes for the Rich – Pretty much ditto what he said, they’re nice but really not a patch on pov pancakes which may say more about our working class palate than anything else. Mostly though they’re a bitch to turn, I am the king of tossing pancakes and these buggers weren’t for flippng. But they are tasty and if you’re attempting to put on a lot of weight in a very short time, whcih we apparently are, these are for you. 6.5/10.

#13 Pancakes for the Rich: 6.5/10. Delicious, but a big old faff and a bit too rich – even for me!