[Smashy the Hammer] [An Aspiring Luddite]
I carry no phone
An aspiring Luddite
In a wired world.
[Jeff Berry]
Jeff Berry is an early adopter of the Internet and the Web, a late adopter of Twitter, and declines to adopt Facebook. With the death of Google+, he's experimenting with federated platforms. He admins a medievalist Mastodon instance, and can found on the PlusPora diaspora pod. He hates cell-phones.

Wiltshire Lardy Cake
13 December 2012
[Lardy Cake]

Last summer we were in Britain, and although we meandered around some, even making a jaunt into Wales to play at the Sonic Rock Solstice, our base of operations for most of the trip was in the lovely village of Great Bedwyn in Wiltshire. There, the local bakery introduced us to the marvel that is the Wiltshire Lardy Cake.

Essentially it's a not-sweet dough, layered and folded around a sweetish filling of butter, sugar, raisins, currents and the like.

Oh, and lard. Did I forget to mention the lard?

The result is dense and filling, without being overbearing or sickly-sweet. As with most pastries of this class, you can vary the filling to your heart's content, to get the flavor and texture you like.

On our trip we wandered through the Savernake Forest, and stopped in the middle to refuel with Lardy Cake. The Lardy Cake seemed to us like Hobbit-style travelling food, and the setting was perfect. Enjoy ...

[Lots of pictures]

Wiltshire Lardy Cake

The Dough

The Filling, Version 1 Make the dough. Mix all the ingredients and knead until you have a smooth dough that is not quite sticky. You may need to add a bit of flour if it is too wet. Set it to rise.

During this first rise, I learned several important things. If you put dough in a stainless steel bowl and set it to rise on the back of my stove while you are cooking something in the oven, it does not so much rise as slowly cook. The bowl will also get hot enough to burn the living ... heck out of your finger. I do not recommend this. Furthermore, since the dough has been cooked, the end result, if you proceed, is more like Lardy Biscotti than Lardy Cake. While this is not bad, it is also not what I wanted. There are no pictures of this attempt. But I digress.

Assuming that you did not mess up your dough, chill your butter and lard, then cut them into small bits. When your dough has risen, put some flour onto a surface of some kind. I recommend a silicon mat. Roll it out into a large rectangle. Scatter a third each of your lard, butter, sugar and fruit across it. Fold into thirds. Rotate 90 degrees. Roll out again. Scatter another third. Fold, rotate and roll out again and then scatter another third. Fold and rotate again. Roll the dough out one more time, this time to the size of your baking dish. Lightly grease the baking dish, with your lipid of choice naturally, put the dough in it, score the top in an aesthetically satisfying cross-hatch, and start heating your oven to 425F. When the oven gets up to temp, put the dough in and bake for 30 minutes, until it's nicely browned.

That's the first cake there on the side. It's good and the flavor profile was right, but it wasn't as moist and dense as the one we had in Great Bedwyn, so I wanted to try again.

Moister and denser sounded like it needed more lard, but how much more was the question? If you go searching for Lardy Cake recipes, you will soon find that there is a lot of variation. So I took my best guess and came up with this. Make the dough as before, only skip putting lard in the dough. So just flour, salt, water and yeast. For the filling, cream together the following:
The Filling, Version 2

Yes, I quadrupled or quintupled the amount of lard. I'm just a rebel.

When the dough has risen, roll it out. Smear a third of your filling across the middle of your dough. This time fold the ends in to meet in the middle and sort of push them down firmly. Roll it out again, just a bit and repeat that. Then rotate it 90 degrees, roll it out a bit and put that last of your filling across the middle, fold the ends in to the middle, push them down to sort of seal it and roll it out to the size of your baking dish. Again, lightly grease your baking dish, plop the dough in it, and start preheating the oven. 400F this time. When the oven is hot, put the dough in for 30 minutes.

When the cake comes out, there may still be some fat bubbling around the edges, which is perfect. Turn the cake out into another dish to cool, and make sure all the lovely fat goes with it. If yours is like mine was, the top may be a hair dry, and letting it cool upside down like that lets it reabsorb some of the lardy, buttery goodness.

This one was just about as we remembered it. Perhaps a hair too sweet. Next time, I may go just a touch lighter on the sugar, and maybe pull back a teensy bit on the lard. Not much, though - it is called Lardy Cake, after all. Of course, you can use as little or as much as you like, but I recommend skewing high to get the full impact. The Hobbits wouldn't skimp on the lard.

Happy Holidays.

© 2012 Jeff Berry
The Aspiring Luddite