Sunday, 23 September 2012

You say griddle and I say girdle - stove top baking revisited

Girdle, Griddle or Bakestone - a cast iron cooking plate for stove top baking 
There has been some debate with neighbours Rob and Clare about just what to call this piece of cooking equipment.   Alexa Johnson's recipe book "Ladies a Plate - Traditional Home Baking" gave us the answer.   Well three answers really!   The Scots call it a girdle, the Irish a griddle and the Welsh a bakestone.   "These metal plates were once an essential piece of kitchen equipment in the days when domestic ovens were rare and fuel was scarce."  I will call mine a girdle from now on to reflect my Scottish heritage.

Clare and Rob hunted down their own girdle or griddle in a second hand shop in South Dunedin.  Clare proudly handed to us while we were in the garden a plate of Welsh tea cakes  - they were delicious!

You can use a heavy, preferably caste iron, pan instead of the girdle to make any of the following recipes.
Welsh Tea Cakes made by Clare

Welsh Tea Cakes  or Welsh Cake Johnnies 

(From Alexa Johnson's recipe book "A Second Helping")
Welsh tea cakes are a cross between a pikelet and a girdle scone.   They look and taste similar to a dense pikelet with a sugary topping but the preparation is more like a scone.  The cakes freeze well so you can choose to make the full recipe and freeze half or just make half the recipe.   The Welsh cakes Clare gave us were still warm and that's the best way to have them.

170 g butter
450 g self raising flour
170 g caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp mixed spice
75g currants
2 eggs
extra caster sugar for dusting 

Rub butter into flour (to save time I use my stick blender to do this), add currants and beaten eggs to make a stiff dough - adding a dash of milk if the dough is too dry.

Working with a 1/4 of the dough at a time, roll out on a lightly floured board to 7mm thick and use cutter of around 5cm width to make dough circles.

Cook 3-4 minutes on each side on a very gentle heat as would be on a coal or wood range top (not easily accomplished on a gas stove top).  They will puff up as they cook.

Store in a folded tea towel and sprinkle with caster sugar as they come off the girdle.

Alternatively you can adapt Nan's Pikelet recipe...

Nan's Pikelets with lemon zest and currants placed on Julia Deans & Anna Coddington souvenir teatowel
In my earlier post I gave you Nan's Pikelet recipe and yesterday with my sister coming for a coffee I decided the adapt the original recipe as suggested in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's "Everyday" cookbook (one of my favourite recipe books).   He calls his pikelets, Drop Scones.   I decided to make Nan's pikelets with 50% white flour and 50% stoneground wholemeal flour to make them a healthier choice and added grated lemon zest to give them a little zing.  Alternatively add 1 tsp of ground ginger instead of the lemon zest.   Hugh suggested adding sultanas onto the pikelet once cooking on the gridle.   I decided that I would like to try currants.   You can even make a smiley face with the currants or sultanas for the kids.  We loved the currants and while the pikelets weren't as fluffy as the 100% white flour ones, you felt satisfied eating less - which is a good thing.

Treacle Scones

In Alexa Johnston's book "Ladies a Plate" Irish writer John Irwin had this to say about Treacle Scones:
"With a piece of buttered treacle bread in his hand a man may well feel like a god."

It traditional to cut Girdle scones into triangles or as they say in Scotland, farls
Treacle scones are crusty, light, slightly sweet and spicy and an excellent morning tea on a Sunday morning with friends.

225 g flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp mixed spice (I used instead Speculaas spice blend used in Holland)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
25 g butter
2 Tbsp treacle
150 ml buttermilk*

Put the Girdle on to heat slowly.

Sift the dry ingredients and either rub in butter with your fingers or do this step in a food processor if you need to save time.

Mix the treacle and buttermilk together and with a rounded knife gently and quickly until the dough comes together and leaves the sides of the bowl cleanly.   Tip mix out onto floured surface, and sprinkle more flour on top.

Knead ever so briefly to make a rough circle .  Rollout  gently to just over 1 cm thick and cut into 6 or 8 farls.  Place the scones on the girdle - do not oil the girdle.

The girdle should have been slowly heating up while you were preparing the scones.  I have found that I need to put my gas at the very lowest point and using a simmer plate if you have one could help to distribute the heat evenly, avoiding burning the outside while leaving the inside uncooked.

Girdle Scones after the first turn
The secret to a thin skin on the girdle scone is to cook slowly - 6-7 minutes each side and then a couple more minutes both sides until the edges look dry - around 15 minutes in total.  Both sides should be a dark golden brown.

To keep them crusty you can cool them on a wire rack, or if you want to keep them warm and soft wrap them in a tea towel.

*You can make your own buttermilk by adding 1 Tbsp lemon juice in 150 ml of full cream milk stirring it on the kitchen bench for 10 minutes to thicken.  Or make half and half mix of skim milk and and low fat yoghurt.

They certainly went down a treat today with our visitors.   We enjoyed them buttered and with plum jam.

You now have three choices of recipe to try some stove top baking.   Enjoy and let me know how you get on.


  1. Hi. Just checked my copy and it should be baking SODA not POWDER. Hence the butter milk - necessary for soda but not for baking powder. 😊

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  4. these are ace....i have made them on and off for 25 years. I dare not make them that often or i would be vastly blog.

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