Monday, February 16, 2009

Bastable

There’s something about this picture that’s very important.

It’s about continuity.
It’s about tradition.
It’s about laughter.

It’s about engaging all the senses:
See (me do this)
Touch (the ingredients)
Feel (the light dough between your fingers)
Listen (to the timer on the stove)
Smell (fresh baking).
Taste (fresh from the oven)

It’s about love.

Last night I showed my granddaughter (who's fourteen) what my grandmother showed me:

How to make a Bastable (sometimes spelled Bastible) Cake.

So my grandmother made it in a black lidded pot and hung it on the hook over the open fire.

So I made it in a fancy square pan and baked it in a state of the art modern oven.

But the aroma was the same. The taste was the same.

And the love? What do you think?
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And here's the recipe as I can find no reference on the web, not a Wiki nor a dictionary entry. The name of the cake is taken from the bastable oven, a cast iron covered pot, used in Co. Cork where I was born and raised.

Bastable Cake
2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 ounces butter
½ cup sugar (generous measure)
1 egg, beaten
¼ to ½ cup milk raw or sour.
2 – 3 cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped
Raisins and nuts and/or dried fruit
1 teaspoon cinnamon or cloves(optional)
1 egg beaten with a pinch of salt, to glaze

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Sieve the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Rub in the butter with your hands. Add about 1/3 cup of the sugar, the egg and enough milk to form a soft dough. Divide the dough into two pieces. Put one piece onto a greased ovenproof plate or pan (or use greased 8 inch cake tin), and pat out with floured fingers to cover the plate or pan.

Arrange the chopped sweetmeats and cinnamon on top of the dough and sprinkle with the rest of the sugar. Add more sugar if the apples are very tart. Roll out the remaining dough and cover the top. (This is easier said than done, as the dough is like a scone dough and is very soft). Press the sides together, cut a slit through the lid, and brush with the egg wash. Bake for about 40 minutes until golden brown.

Remove from the oven. If using a cake tin, carefully slip the cake out. Cool on a wire rack for 5 – 10 minutes. Dredge with more sugar and serve with soft brown sugar and good heavy cream.

24 comments:

  1. Oh yummy!
    What's sweetmeat? It's not in the ingredients, or is that a name for raisins and dried fruit?
    I want to try and make it, sounds delicio!
    Gxox

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  2. I don't think I've ever had any, it looks delicious. I did find some references to it, apparently it's also called Irish soda bread and the iron pot is also known as a Bastable oven. In fact if you google "bastable cake" your post is the second entry!

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  3. Reminds me of a time when my mother and my daughter (then 8yrs) were slicing onions. They had come up with the novel idea of wearing swimming goggles to fight the tears. If nothing else they were cooking up laughter.

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  4. is there a tradition behind this cake? a time of year, a season, a holiday?

    it looks and sounds delicious. i will make some. even though my very irish grandmother never cooked anything, if she could help it....

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  5. You know, living alone and with my gastric band, I will never fix this for myself, but it looks delicious and I am sure it's a joy to make. Maybe I can make it when I have company some day. Tee, hee.

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  6. Although I know some people called Bastable, I have never heard of this cake. Sounds delicious, so I have to make it. XOT

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  7. Gaye:
    usually it's the assorted dried fruit and nuts and bottled cherries left over after Christmas.
    XO
    WWW

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  8. Nick:
    No, those references are incorrect, it bears no relation to soda bread at all. I had found those but was quite annoyed at the mistakes out there. It is definitely a cake and not bread!
    XO
    WWW

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  9. Deb:
    There's nothing quite like cooking with family!
    XO
    WWW

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  10. Laurie:
    Like a lot of Irish households of that era, it made good use of existing leftover ingredients while being very very creative.
    The one thing missing from my modern bastable is the turf (peat) smoke that would pervade the taste!
    I remember one my Granny made had stewed rhubarb in the middle.
    XO
    WWW

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  11. Anne:
    Coming from you, oh gifted cookish creative one, that's a compliment!
    XO
    WWW

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  12. Irene:
    maybe you could have a sliver!!
    XO
    WWW

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  13. Tessa:
    Let me know how it works out!!
    XO
    WWW

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  14. MMMMM - sounds delish, WWW!

    I recall that my own grandmother used to make soemthing not a million miles from your recipe - often using brambles (blackberries) with the apples.
    She called it Bramble Cake, and when it came out of the oven she'd plop a big chunk of farm butter into the slit on top of the cake.

    I've often thought that she had Irish blood in her veins - she used to say that her Dad was "a foreigner" but didn't know exactly where he came from, he was a groom (he died when she was young - from "the drink").
    Irish or Scottish would be a good bet! :-)

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  15. Yes, T, I remember blackberries in the middle too. It sounds like your granny had some Irish blood coursing through her veins!
    Farm butter in the middle, sounds to die!!
    XO
    WWW

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  16. Hmm, you make me wish I did cooking!

    Any symbolic significance aside from the family nostalgia of this cake?

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  17. Laura:
    Like much of Irish tradition and history lost in the midst of time.
    I like to think of it as having some pagan goddess connection but that's wishful thinking on my part!
    XO
    WWW

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  18. Oh, it has to have a pagan goddess connection, of course. I bet this recipe goes back a long time, before we were all Christianized. The pot over the peat fire is a dead give away.

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  19. It is amazing to see people, culture and nature different from mine on the internet . See you!

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  20. Irene:
    Well so it shall be then: a goddess connection!!!
    XO
    WWW

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  21. Thanks for the visit, Masa, your blog is extraordinarily delicate and beautiful!
    XO
    WWW

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  22. never heard of such a thing but it sounds absolutely delicious!

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  23. Conor:
    You could toss the word around at the older rellies as in:
    "When I was serving the bastable at my last get together...."
    XO
    WWW

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