How to Make a Lardy Cake
Regional Varieties of Lardy Cake
People would almost certainly make a Lardy Cake or something similar with the newly collected lard. It was made from plain bread dough but with sugar, spices and, perhaps, dried fruit. There were regional variations: the Oxfordshire Lardy, for instance, does not contain dried fruit; the Wiltshire Lardy has only currants; and the Gloucestershire Lardy has both currants and raisins.
The dough is folded and rolled out much like puff pastry. Before being put into the oven, a cross-hatched pattern can be cut into the top. This touch is decorative but also practical because it was traditional to break the cake, not cut it. The cake turns out beautifully veined with the delicious filling, and crisp and sticky from sugar that has escaped and caramelized, adding to its rugged charm.
Lardy Cake Recipe
To Make the Dough:
375 g/13 oz/2½ cups strong white (bread) flour
1½ tsp easy-blend (active dry) yeast
1 tbsp sugar
¾ tsp salt
35 g/1¼ oz/scant ⅜ stick butter, melted and cooled
about 200 ml/7 fl oz/¾ cup milk, warmed
To Make the Filling:
100 g/3 1⁄2 oz/7⁄8 stick butter, softened
75 g/23⁄4 oz/1⁄3 cup soft dark brown sugar
1⁄2 tsp ground cinnamon
1⁄4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
50–75 g/1 3⁄4–2 3⁄4 oz/1⁄3–1⁄2 cup currants or raisins, or a mixture (optional)
beaten egg, to glaze
Equipment: 24-cm/9-in round tin
Put all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix to moisten the dry ingredients. Use a heavy-duty mixer fitted with a dough hook to knead thoroughly until smooth and supple. Alternatively, turn out onto a floured surface or a non-stick silicone mat and knead until smooth and supple.
Bring together in a ball and return to the bowl. Cover the bowl with clingfilm (plastic wrap) or a damp tea towel (dish towel), and set aside in a warm, draught-free place until doubled in size.
For the filling, beat all the ingredients together until creamy. Set aside.
Knock back the risen dough and re-knead it briefly. On a lightly floured surface, roll it out to a rectangle about 50 x 25 cm/20 x 10 in. Spread the filling evenly on two-thirds of the dough sheet, leaving one outer third empty and about 4 cm/1½ in clear on all other sides. If using, sprinkle the dried fruit over this and press down to embed.
Fold the empty third over the middle third and the remaining third over this. Pinch all the edges well to seal the filling in. Cover with a sheet of clingfilm and leave to rest for about 5 minutes to make it more manageable.
Give the dough parcel a quarter turn (90°) and roll it into a rectangle about 30 x 15 cm/12 x 6 in. Fold this into thirds again and leave to rest for 5 minutes. Repeat this procedure three more times, turning the dough by a quarter turn and rolling and folding. If you find that you are losing too much filling, omit the final turn.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180˚C/350˚F/Gas Mark 4. Brush the dough with beaten egg, then lightly score a cross-hatched pattern onto the surface (if wished). Don’t cut too deeply, or too much filling will be able to escape.
Place the baking tin on a baking sheet (to catch leaks) and bake for 25–30 minutes, or until brown. Remove from the oven, but leave in the tin for about 5 minutes. Then carefully release the clip and turn the cake upside down on a wire rack.
Remove the bottom of the tin, which will probably still be attached to it, and leave to cool further.
Eat lukewarm or cold, cut into wedges or slices.