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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Soul Cakes for All Hallows' Eve




Photo courtesy of Historical Foods

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite..."Witches, ghosts, and goblins. Stealing down the street, knock on every door way, trick or treat!" The treat nowadays is candy, but the practice of dressing in costumes and going door to door for sweets dates back to the Middle Ages when the poor went begging for soul cakes. The cakes, which are actually cookies, were made for All Souls' Day. The devout mixed a measure of superstition with a dose of religion and believed that each cookie represented a soul that would be freed from Purgatory when the cookie was eaten. The cookies, called souls, were etched with crosses that clearly identified them as Alms for the dead and there was an expectation that a prayer would be said each time a cookie was eaten. Over time, the practice of souling was moved to All Hollows' Eve and the Alms for the dead were replaced with candy and other sweets. The cookies are a curiosity and it is their history that makes them interesting. There are dozens of recipes for "souls", most of which make a spicy shortbread-type cookie. Actually, the cookies aren't bad when freshly baked, but they stale fast, so eat quickly and, for heaven's sake, don't forget to say your prayers. Here's the recipe.

Soul Cakes
...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite

Ingredients:
3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup superfine sugar
4 cups flour, sifted
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon apple pie or pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon allspice
3 tablespoons currants or raisins
a little milk

Directions:
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously coat a cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
2) Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy and pale in color. Beat in egg yolks, one at a time.
3) Combine flour and spices. Fold into creamed butter.
4) Gently stir in currants or raisins. Add enough milk to make a soft dough.
5) Form into flat cakes and cut each top with a knife to make a cross.
6) Bake on prepared cookie sheet until golden, about 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Yield: 14 to 16 cakes.








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36 comments:

Alessandra said...

I didn't know this cakes, and what an interesting story, thank you Mary, there are always lots of info in you blog.

Foodness Gracious said...

Great post Mary and great looking cookies!!
Take care..

Ginny said...

Oh my how I love your story! I have always wondered what soul cakes are. One reason is the Peter Paul, and Mary song " Soul Cake". It is played at Christmas time, though it takes some doing to find it on the radio, other Christmas carrols are more popular. But I have always loved it for it's simplicity and harmonies. Thanks for this info and the good picture of the would cakes with the marked crosses.

Aldy @ Al Dente Gourmet said...

Happy Halloween! Cute cakes, Mary :) They look and sound so easy to make- I love the addition of allspice. Delicious! Have a great weekend!!!

Hugs <3

Aldy.

A Seasonal Cook in Turkey said...

What a fascinating background to these cookies, Mary!

Dzoli said...

Great reading..bread of dead..wow:)

Foodycat said...

This was really interesting! And puts a different slant on Terry Pratchett's character Soul Cake Duck. Can you imagine the uproar if you handed them out to your local trick-or-treaters?

Jeannie said...

Interesting story about Halloween and soul cakes:) Happy Halloween to you!

At Anna's kitchen table said...

Interesting post. I've never heard of soul cakes.

Kim said...

So interesting to learn this story! These cookies looks good, even if we have to eat thes efast:)

Jay said...

wow..sounds scrumptiously tasty..excellent cliks dear..
love your presentation..
happy following you..;)
check out mine sometime..
Tasty Appetite

That Girl said...

Cookies with a history are the best kind.

Amish Stories said...

Thank you very much to your blog visit to mine. That Irish bread looks delicious!. Richard from Amish Stories

Martha said...

What an ineresting story. I may have to try these!

Susan Lindquist said...

Such an interesting history of the soul cakes ... I'm with Ginny, I was thinking of Peter Paul and Mary's song as I was reading your post! These do look like shortbreads or very large communion wafers! ... I like the spiciness added! I bet they're good with mulled cider!

Happy Halloween, Mary!

Marmaduke Scarlet said...

A lovely reminder of history. Thank you!

Lizzy said...

Interesting history along with this yummy cookie! My family would love this one...but I have a feeling they'd be begging for frosting :/

Christy said...

i love any sweet that must be eaten to save a soul ;)

TechWriter said...

Thanks I love this blog! Those soul cakes sound really cool

What's Baking?? said...

Oh my god! I love all of your halloween creations and your tale is interesting. Happy Halloween, Mary! I wish I am there to experience the true feel of Halloween. Take care!

Lora said...

Love that you posted this historical Halloween recipe!

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

Your stories are always so interesting. I have enjoyed catching up on all your posts that I missed while traveling in Europe. I especially like your fennel soup post.

Barbara F. said...

I have never heard of soul cakes, Mary. They sound so good. Happy Halloween! xo

laurie said...

what a great Halloween post,, these cookies sound wonderful but I really enjoyed the story too!

Dee at Deelicious Sweets said...

Cute! I learned something new today :) Thanks for sharing.

Fausta said...

Thanks Mary,for your visit to my blog,and i am glad you like my recipes. Also your blog is very beautiful with recipes very interesting.mi add to your supporters so we do not lose sight of. A hug from Italy,Fausta.

France@beyondthepeel said...

The history is fascinating. THanks for the lovely recipe with a short, entertaining history lesson.

Country Dreaming said...

I have never heard of these before, they sound good though.

Have a great Sunday!

Melinda

lostpastremembered said...

I made an old version of these last year and they were delicious.. like your version... gorgeous cookies!

Pegasuslegend said...

love the name these look great!

Jenn said...

A friend of mine made these last year and I agree with you: They were great out of the oven.. a day or two later, they lacked something for sure. Oh well, just means you have to eat them right away!!

Deb in Hawaii said...

Such an interesting story! Great post and the soul cakes look so tasty too.
;-)

Rachana said...

The cookies look so good. Happy Halloween :-)

Claudia said...

I had no idea (regarding story of soul cakes). Makes me wonder what people will think in the coming centuries when they study us and our "peculiar" ways. But these cakes - they tickle my history bone.

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Mary - Like Ginny, I always wondered what soul cakes were, after the Peter Paul and Mary song, and then Sting popularized it last year in an album too. Now I know and they are great looking.

Lauren said...

I've heard of Soul Cakes, but haven't ever actually tried one. Thanks for the recipe!

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