Yorkshire teacakes studded with raisins are the epitome of a simple pleasure: toasted, with plenty of butter.
Favourite childhood treats
The best remembered childhood treats are usually very simple: ice lollies, marshmallows on a stick or bread with butter and sugar.
The last is my uniquely fond memory, even more so because it was a rare, sneaked treat: my mother was strictly health conscious.
Now if you were born in Yorkshire, your best-remembered treat might be a toasted buttered teacake. And very rightly so: it’s simple, it’s cheap and it’s immensely comforting, for child as for a grown-up.
The Weather Man, York born and bred, had a particularly sentimental journey a while ago when we were passing through a delectable Yorkshire town of Ripon. A city, in fact, amazingly: the third smallest city in the UK.
In that charming place, in a charmingly old-fashioned tearoom we were served an enormous teacake, sliced and golden toasted, with more butter than we needed, which is highly unusual.
The Weather Man was transported to his childhood and I marvelled how comforting simple things were, enjoying the warm bun with my excellent coffee.
What are Yorkshire teacakes?
And why do I keep referring to them geographically all the time? That’s to avoid any confusion with their slightly spivvy Scottish namesakes, chocolate confections filled with a biscuits and a marshmallow.
Teacakes are barely sweet buns, less spiced and less opulent than hot cross buns.
They come white or granary, plain or fruited, traditionally with currants and these days with raisins, cranberries or cherries. They are sold in packs of six in bakeries all over Yorkshire but not at famous Betty’s – that place is far too posh for humble teacakes.
They need not be snatched straight from the oven to enjoy because, however lovely they will be thus, the ultimate teacake is toasted.
How to make the dough for teacakes?
It is plain and simple, none of the fancy brioche nonsense.
Milk, a little sugar and a little butter (or lard, or margarine – this is old-school baking after all) are all the enrichments to the dough and it is easy to make in a standing mixer but just as easy to knead with some elbow grease.
Rising in bulk for an hour and a half, the dough will next have to be divided into twelve chunks.
That makes a modest teacake. If you’re after a Yorkshire-sized buns, cut the dough into ten pieces. The former will weigh about 75g each and the latter – 90g.
Shaping the pieces into balls would produce buns not teacakes so each needs to be flattened with a rolling pin to a thickness of about 1½ cm.
Arrange them on parchment-lined trays spaced about 2cm apart. They won’t spread much while rising, but rather rise and puff up.
This second rising should take just short of an hour, ideally somewhere warm.
Bake, eat, toast, repeat
Just before baking, they can be brushed with milk for a discreet sheen but it’s not necessary – these are not showy fellas.
They are ready to come out of the oven when deep golden brown, and only get more delightful as they dry out slightly on the following days, and prepare to be toasted.
Take care when toasting though: they do go from ‘nothing happens’ to burnt really quickly if inserted into ordinary toaster. For the perfect teacake experience I’d recommend toasting them on a griddle, a cast iron hot plate or a large dry frying pan.
More sweet bun recipes
Soft sweet buns with glace cherries, dried cherries and cherry jam. A little like Chelsea buns, they are rolled around the filling and baked close together so you tear them apart to eat.
Maple and pecan sticky buns, baked upside down, flavoured with cinnamon and cardamom. It's a rich and sticky, sweet and spicy bliss, best enjoyed warm!
Marzipan buns flavoured with cinnamon and cardamom. Homemade marzipan fills these sweet soft buns baked in a muffin tin. These are perfect breakfast buns!
More English teatime treat recipes
Traditional, plain English scones: my best scone recipe produces fluffy classic scones, as big or as small as you want to cut them. They freeze very well though are really the best warm from the oven.
Classic Victoria sponge sandwich cake filled with fresh strawberries and whipped cream, is also known as strawberry shortcake sandwich.
Bakewell tart with a smudge of raspberry jam, soft frangipane filling, almond crust and a cherry on top. Gorgeous textures and flavours in a classic English cake.