There’s nothing like travel to get the appetite ready for new tastes and cooking methods, and I’m happy to have Carly Diaz here once again, showing us how to make Welshcakes and why they became part of her repertoire. Don’t miss her last gorgeous post about Cacio e Pepe.
It’s hard to say whether I fell in love with Welshcakes because of their delicious simplicity or because the first time I tried them they were the Elven bread in a scene that seemed straight out of Lord of the Rings. I was in Snowdonia National Park in North Wales and attempting to summit Mt. Snowdon. My hiking boots were dusty from years of living in the Netherlands, one of the world’s flattest countries, but my husband and I planned to take one of the shorter trails, one with just a moderate elevation gain.
The hike came at the midway point during a road trip through England and Wales. After a visit to the idyllic Cotswolds, we were calling a shepherd’s hut home as we explored the Welsh countryside. We had planned the route around climbing Mt. Snowdon, the highest point in the British Isles outside Scotland at 1,085 meters (3,560 feet).
After waking that morning in our little shepherd’s hut, we stopped for coffee in the town of Betws-y-Coed. In the café, they had a variety of fresh-from-the-oven Welshcakes that smelled heavenly. We ordered two bags of four cakes each, one of traditional Welshcakes and one of cranberry orange Welshcakes. Having recently eaten breakfast, we tucked them into our rucksacks for a midday snack. We didn’t know then how thankful we would be for them later on.
The parking area at our intended trailhead was full, which led us to starting out on the Watkins trail. As we later learned, Watkins is the most difficult route to the summit. The first part of the trail had a moderate incline and an abundance of beauty as we passed sunny fields and meandering waterfalls. Halfway up, the incline intensified dramatically and dark clouds rolled in. There were moments I felt daunted, when the wind whipped and the fog was so dense that you could only see several meters ahead. Not to mention the 45-degree incline. After a lengthy period of climbing up a steep section with loose rocks, I really didn’t think I could continue. At that point, we remembered the Welshcakes. The moment of respite and the boost of energy from the Welshcakes gave us needed momentum, first to continue to the summit and then to endure the descent.
Welshcakes are slightly reminiscent of scones, cookies, and pancakes, but “baking” them stovetop gives them a unique flavor and texture: a slight crunch on the outside with a soft, chewy center. The currants add a subtle, sweet flavor that will win the favor even of those who traditionally scorn raisins in pastries.
- ¾ cup unbleached white flour
- ¾ cup wheat flour
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 1½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 stick of cold butter, diced
- zest of ½ lemon
- ½ cup dried currants
- 1 egg, beat
- ¼ cup milk
- Caster sugar for garnish
- In a large bowl, mix the flours, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. With a fork, cut the diced butter into the dry ingredients until pea-sized butter chunks form. Add the lemon zest, currants, egg and mix together. Slowly add in the milk until just blended.
- Place the dough on a lightly floured surface, kneading a time or two and then rolling out until ¼ inch thick. With a cookie or biscuit cutter (or a small glass), cut into rounds. Heat a ½ teaspoon of butter in a cast iron pan on medium low. Add the cakes, leaving space in between, and cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes on each side. Remove from the heat and sprinkle with caster sugar. Serve warm with milk or a cup of tea.