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
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
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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