Trick-or-treating as we know it actually had its beginning hundreds of years ago in Medieval England and Ireland. People would make small, round soul cakes for All Saints Day. Children would go door to door as they do now, but instead of collecting piles of candy and “trick-or-treating,” they would sing songs and say prayers for the dead and would receive a soul cake for their efforts. For each cake eaten, a soul would be freed from Purgatory. This tradition continued even into the last century in some areas.
As I have been reading about the beginnings of Halloween, I decided that I needed to make a batch of traditional soul cakes for Halloween. So that’s just what I did! They aren’t cakes at all. They are more like spiced shortbread cookies. I found a great recipe that I was able to adapt a bit and convert to American measurements. The soul cakes are lightly sweet and spicy. Not what you might think of as a typical Halloween treat, but I think soul cakes are going to become a new Halloween tradition in our house!
Traditional Soul Cake Recipe
Recipe adapted from: recipewise
Makes about 24 large, 3 1/2-inch cakes’
2 1/2 cups (340 grams) all-purpose flour, sifted
3/4 cup (170 grams) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (170 grams) butter
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
2 tsp of apple cider vinegar
1.Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bow. Work the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Add the egg and white wine vinegar Thoroughly mix all the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl sifted flour, spices, and sugar. Rub in the diced butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add in the beaten egg and vinegar and mix with a wooden spoon until it comes together into a ball. The dough will be firm. Use your hands to press the dough together into a ball, if necessary. Cover the bowl and chill for 20 minutes.
3.Lightly flour a clean, flat surface and roll the dough out to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into large rounds using a cookie cutter. Use the end of a wooden spoon to press a cross shape into the cakes. Place the cakes onto the baking sheets and press raisins into the top of the cakes, if desired. Gather the scraps together and roll again until all the dough has been cut into cakes.
Bake, one sheet at a time, for 12-15 minutes, or until the cake tops are lightly golden. Can be eaten warm or at room temperature.
Store in an airtight container for about a week.
Note: The dough can also be made in a food processor. Pulse the dry ingredients, add the butter and pulse until it resembles cornmeal. With the motor running, pour the beaten egg and vinegar through the feed hole. Pulse until well combined. Turn out into a bowl and press together into a ball. Chill and proceed with rolling, cutting, and baking the cookies as directed above.