I’m a sucker for a good packaging design, be it a simple container like Apple’s packaging or the sexy curves of the classic Coke bottle, or even a good book design. The Lemony Snicket Series of Unfortunate Events books were one such design. 7″ x 5″ hard backs, with rough cut page edges.
Luckily, the books didn’t suck.
The point (and believe me, there actually is a point to this) is that a few months ago, I came across a couple similarly sized hard back books with a beautiful design sensibility at Costco: The River Cottage Bread Handbook and The River Cottage Preserves Handbook.
They were inexpensive, always welcome in a cookbook, where $50 is not uncommon, which was a plus. The recipes looked good. But still, we had a few bread and preserves cookbooks already, I wasn’t sure we needed more.
Thankfully, Seattle has a wonderful public library system which we have been making a great deal of use of, checking out cookbooks just to see if we think we might like them. So, we added this to our list and waited for them to arrive.
Once they arrived, there was this recipe that I saw… I read… and… I loved. This is that recipe.
The foreword to the recipe outright says to not even think of making this bread without lard.
Which reminds me, it should be pointed out, this isn’t a cake, despite being called Lardy Cake. It is a bread. In fact, it is practically a croissant. Flaky, buttery.
Anyways, back to the foreword. We’ve recently fell back in love with lard. Relatively recently, anyways. So this recipe was high on the list to try.
And yes, it’s incredibly tasty.
There’s a second reason we bought the book. They have a 15 page, 3 day instruction manual on building your own clay oven. I liked their design and could see ways to tweak it just a little bit to make it portable that I had to pick up the book. Now to find the time to put it together.
Lardy Cakes adapted from The River Cottage Bread Handbook
- White bread flour, 2 cup (plus extra)
- Warm water, 2/3 cup
- Instant yeast, 1 1/2 tsp
- Salt, 1 tsp
- Lard, 3/4 cup (preferably cold/solid and cubed smallish [think 6-sided die])
- Dried cranberries, 1/2 cup
- Candied ginger, diced, 1/2 cup
- In a mixing bowl, combine flour, water, yeast and salt and mix until you have a soft dough. If the yeast is of the active dry variety and needs to proof first, mix it and the warm water first until it bubbles, add the dry ingredients and then mix to a soft dough
- Melt 2 teaspoons of the lard and incorporate into the dough.
- Continue to mix the dough until smooth and elastic, either kneading by hand or mixing in the mixer.
- Put into a clean, lightly greased bowl, cover with a clean rag and let rise until doubled in size.
- Once the dough has risen, tip it out of the bowl onto a floured surface and work the dough with your fingertips until it is all deflated.
- Roll out the dough to a little under a half inch thick and roughly rectangular.
- Scatter half of the lard cubes, diced ginger and dried cranberries onto the dough and then fold over onto itself from the short side, making a roll of dough. Tuck in any edges if needed.
- Turn the roll 90 degrees and roll it out again into roughly a half inch thick rectangle and repeat step 7.
- Roll out the dough one last time into an 8 inch square.
- Grease a deep 8 inch square baking pan and transfer the dough to it.
- Allow the dough to rise for about 30-45 minutes, preheating the oven to 400F about half way through.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the top is golden brown.
- Remove from oven and allow it to cool for 15 minutes in the pan.
- Carefully invert the pan over a cooling rack (placed over a cookie sheet) to allow the bread to cool upside down. This will help the melted lard to get absorbed into the dough.
- Slice and serve, warm or cold.
Notes: So, when we made this, we made a little mistake.
See, my wife needed to make the dough early while I was working a little late, and when I got home, I started with tipping the dough out.
Turns out, there was a little step in between those two steps, which is a downside of the paragraph method of steps, although it could have hit me with numbered steps just as easily. Basically, to get the book recipe, add 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 3 1/2 tablespoons superfine sugar.
Mix those two items with the dried fruit you’ve selected while the dough rises in step 4 and that’s the mixture you spread out.
Now, how about the taste? Well, in short, it was amazing. There is no butter in this dish, but it tastes like the most buttery, flaky croissant you’d ever want, with the added bonus of the candied ginger and dried cranberries. This is going to be our go-to recipe for Christmas morning. Personally, the Mrs. found the lardy cake better warm than cool, though it does work both ways. Thrown under a broiler for 45 seconds the next day was perfect.
- Single serving sandwich bread. Really. No, seriously. Mr. Cooklocal here, and let me apologize right off the...
- Rosemary Filone The tale of the biga is a long one. I’m...
- Freshly Baked Bread Have you ever walked by a bakery right when the...
- 12 Recipes of Christmas – Christmas Bread Wreath On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave...