How cold is it today? Last week we were enjoying lovely warm sunshine and the promise of spring was well and truly in the air. This morning, I wake up to the sight of snow falling gently and freezing temperatures outside.
When I was a child, days like these were spent inside, snuggled up in front of the fire, blankets over our legs, with hot cups of tea and our family’s favourite comfort cake…a Dripper!
When I was growing up in Gloucestershire these sweet and sticky, (sometimes fruity) slices were known as ‘Drippers’ and they were a real treat, everybody loved them. Originally they would have been made with beef dripping in the filling but the vegetable fat and butter mixture makes for a more palatable cake, suitable for vegetarians!
There are many discussions between Cheltenham folk on whether a true dripper should contain any fruit at all and they will argue quite forcefully that fruit has no place in a Cheltenham Dripper! Well, my mum remembers buying these delicious cakes from bakeries in the 1930’s and there was always the choice between plain or fruit so I trust her memory to allow me to include fruit in my recipe without worrying about the ‘dripper purists’ !
So, what better for the coldest day of the year so far (not sure if that’s true but it really feels like it outside!) than to snuggle up with a slice…or two!
We have a couple of excellent local bakeries in the little town where I live, both of whom sell very tempting looking Lardy cakes (not the same as a dripper but often mistaken for one) but in our journey of thriftyness and finding value for money and a trip down memory lane I have had a go at making my own and the results are delicious.
For those of you who may never have encountered a Dripper, it is basically bread dough that is layered with fat, sugar and dried fruits in the same way that puff pastry is made…sounds tempting doesn’t it? But it really does taste so much better than it sounds! A real treat!
For the bread dough
- 500g (1 lb) strong white bread flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 15g (1/2oz) butter
- 7g easy blend yeast
- 300ml (1/2 pint) lukewarm water
For the filling
- 90g (3oz) white vegetable fat
- 60g (2oz) butter
- 200g (7oz) dried fruits (sultanas, currants etc) – Fruit is optional as drippers were also sold plain – many Cheltonions say that the plain ones are the true Cheltenham drippers but it is a matter of choice!
- 90g (3oz) light brown sugar
For the tin
- 30g (1oz) butter
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- Butter a 12″ x 9″ roasting tin with the butter and sprinkle over the sugar – this gives you a lovely toffee base to the dripper.
For the glaze
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon water
First of all, make the bread dough. put the flour and salt into a large bowl and rub in the butter. Mix in the yeast then add the water, mixing well to bring it all together. Knead for about 10 minutes until smooth and stretchy. Put the dough back in the bowl and cover with oiled clingfilm or a damp tea towel then leave in a warm plce to double in size.
When the dough is ready, knock the air out and knead gently to bring the dough back into a ball. Now, roll out the dough into a largeish rectangle…easier said than done with the stretchy dough but it does go eventually!
Using 1/3rd of the butter and white fat, dot these over the dough before sprinkling on 1/3rd of the sugar and 1/3 of the dried fruits (if using – we often had plain ‘Drippers’ with no fruit when we were younger!) pressing them into the dough a little to stop them falling off during the next stage.
OK, now we’re ready to fold the dough. Fold one end into the middle
then fold the other end over the top of the first – see the picture…it’s so much easier to show rather than tell!
All simple stuff but you now need to do this same procedure twice more so roll the dough out again then add 1/3rd more of the fat, sugar and fruits, roll again and add the last of the mix.
Nearly there now, so just roll out the dough to the size of the tin, place it carefully in the tin, pressing it to fill the tin and cover before leaving it until well risen.
Bake at gas 6 for about 30 minutes until a lovely golden colour. Just before the cake is ready, make the glaze. Put the sugar and water into a small pan and simmer for a couple of minutes before brushing over the cake as soon as it has cooked and comes out of the oven.
Cut the cake into 8 or 12 slices (depending on how greedy you are feeling!) and leave the dripper in the tin for 1 or 2 minutes – no more otherwise the toffee base starts to set and then it can be quite difficult to get the slices out! If you do leave it too long pop the tin back in the oven for 3 or 4 minutes to soften the toffee and it will be easy to get your cake free!