One thing which I have always loved about the UK is all of the food traditions and superstitions they have surrounding the holidays and holy-days of the year. Halloween is also known as All Hallows' Eve, All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day.
Soul Cakes are old English traditional cakes that are usually baked on Halloween. On this day of the year, in years gone past, Children would go 'souling', on this day, singing from house to house for some of these tasty cakes. This was in all likelihood a precursor today's custom of children going Trick-or-Treating.
In Christian countries, and in the Roman Catholic church, prayers for the souls of the departed are reflected in the 3 day celebration of the commemoration of the departed which begins on the 31st of October, or All Hallow's Eve.
November 1st is known as All Saint's day, a day on which the souls of those who have departed are venerated . . .
And on the 2nd of November, we have All Souls' Day when the souls of those who have departed are prayed for . . . and n particular those family members who are still in purgatory and awaiting their entry into Heaven.
The souls of these people were believed to be spending a period of time suffering in Purgatory to pay for sins committed during their earthly lives.
Prayers and vigils were thought to ease their suffering, hasten their release from Purgatory and entry into Heaven.
In early times, when England was a Catholic country, poor people stood at the wayside begging for food or money as ecclesiastical processions passed by.
In exchange for food and alms, they prayed for the souls of the dead. Traditionally, on All Souls Day, they were given soul cakes. One cake eaten was thought to release one soul from Purgatory, opening its way to Heaven.
Whatever the background behind these traditions one thing remains . . . these are very delicious cakes.
So delicious that between Todd and myself, we have released a good half a dozen souls today alone . . .
And who knows how many we are going to release before we are finished. All for the greater good!
Seriously these are some very tasty cakes! I really hope you will try them!
Yield: Makes about 2 dozen
Author: Marie Rayner
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A buttery biscuit/cookie/cake, lightly spiced and studded with currants. A traditional recipe served on All Hallows 'Eve in the UK.
175g butter (3/4 cup +1 TBS)
175g caster sugar (1 cup less 1 1/2 TBS)
3 egg yolks
450g self raising flour (3 cups less 1 1/2 TBS)
2 tsp mixed spice (see my recipe)
a few gratings nutmeg
about 100ml milk (6 1/2 TBS)
100g dried currants plus handful to decorate (2/3 cup)
demerera sugar to decorate (turbinado)
How to cook Soul Cakes
Preheat the oven to 190*C/375*F/ gas mark 5. Line several baking sheets with baking paper. Set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks. Sift together the flour, mixed spice and nutmeg. Add to the creamed mixture along with the milk to give you a soft dough that you can easily roll out.
Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin to 1/3 inch thickness. Cut into rounds with a 3 inch biscuit cutter. using the dull side of a knife mark a light cross indentation into the tops of each biscuit. Push currants into the crosses. Sprinkle with a bit of demerara sugar and place about 2 inches apart on the baking trays.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until puffed and golden brown. Scoop off onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Store in an airtight container.
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In modern times I cannot imagine allowing your children to beg at the side of the road or even door to door things such as baked goods. You never know who you can trust or who you can't trust. Even candy wise, I think I would be a lot more circumspect in these modern times than I would have been in days gone by. They call it progress . . .