Do you care for caraway?

9 Jan

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The seed cake, with its fine, close texture

My visit to Fort York today gave me the opportunity to try the seed cake which I made on Sunday.  With a pound of butter and sugar the cake was beautifully sweet, with a fine, dense texture, studded with the distinctive caraway seeds.  The seeds have a strong, almost aniseedy flavour, which felt strange to my modern palate at first but which is fast growing on me.  Mya felt that the cake was too dry but I actually quite liked the texture; the cake sliced very well and was the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea.

The OED describes caraway as  ‘An umbelliferous plant ( Carum carui): its small fruits, commonly called ‘caraway-seeds’, are aromatic and carminative; they are used in cakes, sweetmeats, etc., and yield a volatile oil’.  Dr Johnson, in his 1755 dictionary, talks about the seeds being used in medicine and confectionary.  It was a popular flavouring in Britain for many classic cakes and biscuits; as well as the seed cake made on Sunday caraway seeds are a key ingredient for the Shrewsbury biscuits we made today.

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Shrewsbury biscuits, again with caraway seeds, although some recipes have currants, and pricked with a fork

As well as the Shrewsbury biscuits we made little fine cakes (Hannah Glasse’s 1747 recipe) for the upcoming Queen Charlotte’s Birthday Ball to be held at Fort York on 19 January, and started some marmalade with bitter Sicilian oranges from Mya’s carefully tended orange tree.

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Little fine cakes – as indeed they are!  There’s no flavouring, just a lovely soft texture punctuated by juicy currants

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some of Mya’s bitter Sicilian oranges

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