I love cooking for my lovely parents-in-law. I would go so far as to say that they are the easiest people I have ever cooked for. I am at my most relaxed when making a meal for them and they are always appreciative of the effort, rewarding me with empty bowls and cleaned plates. But what I love most, and brings out the giggles, is serving them something sweet; be it a dessert or a tea-time treat. I will admit to even smirking a wee bit when I see their refined, yet slightly greedy enthusiasm. while wolfing down something like a fruit cake.
You see, my in-laws vehemently deny having a sweet tooth. “Och, no, nooo, thankyou!” is a standard reply to smiling, dessert-menu bearing waiters. Even if my father-in-law asks for something ‘fine‘ to munch on with his after-dinner coffee, he will deny, with the same breath, that he likes the sweet stuff. Stashes of bakery bought scones, Welshcakes, drop scones, fig rolls, hot cross buns may lie quietly in apparent agreement (for guests, you know…) in their kitchen cupboard, but it will start disappearing slowly through the week. Guests or not.
It would seem that the criteria for breaking their rules on consumption of ‘something fine’ rests on whether its a fruit based treat or not. It’s the traditional British baked fare that they enjoy most, and I, I happily supply them with it; whenever I can. I share the same, greedy love. It’s a dangerous situation, if I am left alone in a room with a fruit cake.
I decided to make these one languid afternoon, when my in-laws were in Doha, visiting for a while. Crumbs were the only evidence left of a fruit tea loaf I baked a couple of days before, so I thought I’d better replenish the tin. A quick look through Nigella’s How to be a Domestic Goddess had me zoning into the Welshcake recipe. Perfect.
It’s easy too. You rub butter into the flour. Or take the fast route and pulse in a food processor. I do like the feel of the cool butter and the powdery flour through my fingertips though; it’s oddly comforting. Once you add the golden sultanas, spice, sugar and the egg to make a dough, you leave it to rest in the fridge for an hour or for as long as you like. Now I defect from the method here. I roll out the dough as soon as its made, between two pieces of cling film; enough to fit in a flat baking sheet. Then, I leave the rolled dough to rest on the baking sheet in the fridge. This means that it cools down and hardens faster and I can cut the circular shapes out quickly.
My beloved mother-in-law watched me as I was cutting out the welshcakes. She already had the kettle boiling in anticipation and the cups ready with teabags (I have yet to find The Teapot, its an ongoing search). MIL watched with mounting impatience as I took photo upon photo of the process. She gave in and walked away, asking me not to take too long. I quickly got the cold discs into a dry, heated frying pan. Six minutes later, I had warm, golden rubbled, buttery, puffed discs laying on a pretty plate.
I carried out the plate with the tea to the back garden, where all the family were basking in the heat. My MIL, seeing the heaving tray, let out a, “Well, thank goodness for that!!!“. We roared with laughter and snatching hands descended eagerly on the plate. The welshcakes were polished off, fast and furious, by kids and all the adults alike.
I cannot tell you how wonderful these are! I would say they are better than scones as you don’t have to faff around with extras like cream and jam. Somewhere between a biscuit and a cake, their ambiguous, airy texture doesn’t do them any harm in the taste department. Even as a thin disc, the rubbing of the butter ensures that you get those light, flaky layers. The butteriness of them, the fruity sultanas, the warmth of mixed spice and its simplicity makes these one of the easiest, most delicious tea time treats to come out of my kitchen. I love them with a lingering breath of warmth from the pan and I defy you to eat just one. I will not admit to how many didn’t reach the plate on the table. Do not ask, no. Really. Just don’t…