Brighton Rock Cakes, Sussex
The tea-time pastry sometimes simply called Brighton Rock is a million miles from the nasty world inhabited by Pinkie Brown in Graham Greene ís most celebrated novel. Is the near disappearance of the simple but genteel pastry in some part due to the association of the two, or are the days of such highly calorific and homely confections past?
This is the sort of thing to be consumed while drinking a cup of tea beneath which a saucer lies; a cake to be presented along with rivals on a silver plate cake stand, preferably with more than one layer. This being a Brighton recipe traditionally they should be eaten during an illicit weekend in a seaside hotel, but they can equally be enjoyed at home with your spouse.
My ancient Cassell Dictionary of Cookery offers a recipe rather more elegant than modern versions, with almonds (three parts sweet, one part bitter) pounded and then bound with rose-water. Also different is the lack of an egg in this old recipe, and eggs do seem superfluous in achieving the desired rocky consistency. One modern version I have seen omits almonds entirely, which may be excellent for those who carry an ephedrine pen with them everywhere, and doubtless works, but seems to rather miss the flavouring point.
An all-purpose modernised version can be offered: for two or three ounces of ground almonds use a quarter of a pound of currants or sultanas, plumped in warm sherry for a minute (it helps remove any lingering impurities, and gives a moister end product, with luck and good baking avoiding the dead fly stage of dried fruit). Mix this with half a pound of self-raising flour and a quarter of a pound of caster sugar, both sifted into the bowl along with a pinch of salt. Cream a quarter of a pound of butter and then combine that with the dry ingredients, ensuring a good even mixture results. If you have rose-water and like it, add a few drops during mixing to give another level to the flavour, though it is texture which is paramount with this little delicacy. If you want a lighter cake, beat an egg and add this during the mixing, but you donít want a wet dough, so if you do this reduce the amount of butter slightly.
Drop lumps of the mix on a greased baking tray, say about 15, and donít neaten up the edges whatever you do Ė in fact for authenticity you should give the top a scrape with a fork to give a rougher surface, which will make the end product crispier. They are baked fairly hot, 190 or 200 centigrade, needing only about a quarter of an hour to bake them fully, maybe even less depending on your oven Ė keep an eye on them. Serve with Earl Grey tea, or good Darjeeling. Or whatever tea you have, but preferably from a pot into cups and saucers, and curling your Pinkie. Blast, you just canít get away from that novel.
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