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you rascal you!

Byline: Stephen JACKSON Stephen is co-owner and chef at T&Cake Cafe, Almondbury

IT'S all a bit gloomy up the Colne Valley at the moment. It's very definitely getting a little 'back-endish'.

As the leaves start to fall, and the wet, windy weather makes going outside merely a necessity rather than a pleasure, I prefer to find things to do inside, and there aren't many things that lift the spirits like a spot of baking.

And when it's easy baking, all the better. It's nice to be able to quickly whip up a batch of scones or bake a simple sponge cake to improve one's mood, and fill the kitchen with those lovely warm bakery smells.

The kitchen is the best room in the house when filled with the steamy warmth of a cake on the go, and all the nose-tingling scents of warm sugar and sweet baking spices.

This week, I tried making one of my favourite things for the first time, a true Yorkshire classic: the Fat Rascal.

Since I can remember, whenever I've been near a Betty's Tea Room, I've had to pop in and buy a brace of these delicious little cakes. I understand that the company has trademarked the name, which I think is a little unfair of them, given that the Fat Rascal has been made in Yorkshire and the North-East for much longer than Betty's has been around (it's an old Elizabethan recipe) but this is, I suppose, the modern world we've created, where patents and trademarks are guarded zealously.

Not to be dissuaded by potential impending litigation, I decided to make my very first batch of rascals. The recipe is more generally known as a tea biscuit, very close to the recipe for rock cakes, and is half-way between a cake and a biscuit. It has an open, crumbly texture, and is quite dense, with a wonderfully rich, buttery flavour, enlivened by fruit and sweet spices.

A fat rascal is wonderful eaten as is, with just a little vestigial oven warmth, but I adore splitting them, toasting lightly under the grill, and smearing a little salted butter on each half, allowing it to melt into the bun before scoffing it.

A cup of good strong tea is the perfect accompaniment, but I imagine a small glass of fortified wine, a Madeira perhaps, would be every bit as lovely. I was pleased with the results of the basic recipe, and so I made up a batch of cherry and almond rascals, omitting the spices but adding a handful of white chocolate chips which worked wonderfully with the toasted almonds and dried cherries. Of course, as with many of the recipes I give you here, you should feel free to experiment according to your desires. I thought that dark chocolate and confit orange might work really well, or perhaps even dried pear pieces alongside almonds and chocolate for a 'Poire Belle-Helene'-themed variant. It's entirely up to you - just make up a basic dough and add whatever you fancy.

They take next to no time to produce, and will disappear in minutes if you're not watchful! They are also a good recipe to make with small children, as they are extremely simple and very forgiving, and it's lots of fun to make little faces on each rascal with cherry eyes and a toothy almond smile.

So, why not make a little northern classic this weekend? The perfect thing for a blustery Sunday afternoon in front of a good film on the telly.

Yorkshire Fat Rascals For the buns: 300g plain flour 300g self-raising flour 2 tsp baking powder 300g butter, diced and chilled 200g unrefined golden caster sugar 100g currants 100g raisins 100g sultanas 2 tsp cinnamon 1 tsp grated nutmeg Zest of 2 oranges Zest of 2 lemons 2 large free-range egg yolks 100-150 ml full-cream milk For the glaze: 2 large free-range egg yolks A pinch of Maldon salt A splash of water Flaked almonds Natural glace cherries Method: Preheat the oven to 200oC / Gas 6. Sieve the flours and baking powder and tip into the bowl of a food processor.

Whizz in the diced chilled butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, and tip out into a wide bowl. Add the mixed dried fruit, sugar, spices, orange and lemon zests and mix well. Lightly beat the egg yolks and add to the mixture with just enough milk to make stiff dough. Divide the dough into 24 even pieces, then shape into loose patties with floured hands and place onto a lined baking tray.

For the glaze, mix the egg yolk, salt and water together. Brush the mixture over each rascal, and decorate them with the almonds and glace cherries.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown, and allow to cool a little before removing and cooling completely on a wire rack.
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Title Annotation:Features; Opinion, Column
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Article Type:Recipe
Date:Oct 18, 2013
Words:809
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