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Friday, 21 March 2014

Cornwall's Baking Tradition and a couple of recipes

Think of Cornwall and one of your first images will be of  a Clotted Cream Tea.

The plate piled high with scones, freshly churned butter a jar of good home-made raspberry or Strawberry Jam and a golden mountain of clotted cream waiting to crown the scone and jam.  In Cornwall the cream has to go on top, whereas Devon folk put the jam on top – more fool them as you can put much more cream on a Cornish tea!


To wash the confectionary delight down - a cup of tea, perhaps from the only tea plantation in the UK at Tregothnan or a pint of Scrumpy.


But wait a minute! The scone is a recent interloper. Traditional Cornish Teas should always have the Cornish Split as the vehicle for buttery, jammy creamy goodness.

A sweet bun, the Split has much to commend it, and as a Baker, I would rather a bread base than a cake one, even though the scone is a close first cousin to Soda Bread.

Sadly the Split has fallen out of fashion, probably because Scones are quicker to make and easier, but there is no doubt that it is the better accompaniment to the tea.

One of the few bakeries still making the traditional Split is the Chough Bakery on Padstow, right on the harbour and still independent; I used their recipe for the perfect Cornish Split.


Cornish Splits (makes 15)

Preheat an oven to 180c

This is a two stage recipe.

Stage 1

160g Strong Flour

25g Fresh Yeast (12.5g dried)

250g tepid water

25g Sugar

Mix the yeast, water and sugar together then whisk in the flour. Cover and stand aside. The mix will double in size then fall back as the yeast consumes the sugar. Takes about 45 minutes.

Stage 2

360g Strong Flour

60g Sugar

70g Butter

15g Milk Powder (I used 1 tbsp. full fat milk)

Pinch of Salt (Cornish Sea Salt gives a true provenance)

Mix the dry ingredients then rub in the fat. In a mixer slowly pour in the ferment whilst mixing on low speed with a dough hook until it is all absorbed. Turn speed up and mix till the dough goes shiny. Cover and leave for about 30 minutes.

Turn the dough out and fold it a couple of times then divide into 15 and shape into small rolls. Place on a greased baking tray or on one lined with Parchment Paper. Leave to double in size.

Cook the rolls for 16 minutes then tap to make sure they sound hollow. Turn onto a cooling rack and dust with Icing Sugar. Resist as long as possible then slather with Butter, Jam and Clotted Cream.

(I have also made them with Halen Mon Sea Salt with Organic Vanilla, from Anglesey. This gives an added depth of taste and remains Celtic if not strictly Cornish)


Another great Cornish traditional bread is Saffron Bread. Many English counties have their own fruit breads and here in Wales we have Bara Brith (Speckled Bread) whilst Ireland has Barm Brack. The defining feature here is the Saffron dating back to times when Cornwall had a thriving port business and sat at the hub of international trade.

Again I used the Chough Bakery recipe.


Saffron Bread Makes 1 large or 2 small loaves, 13 buns or 1 small loaf and 8 buns

2tbsp Water

Pinch of Saffron


575g Strong Flour

60g Castor Sugar

125g White Shortening (I used Lard)


25g Fresh Yeast (12.5g dried)

275g Warm Water


230g Mixed Fruit and Peel

Mix the saffron and 2tbsp water, heat and allow to cool.

Put all the dry ingredients into a mixer bowl, leaving the mixed fruit to one side.

Whisk the yeast water and saffron together, pour into the dry ingredients and mix for 2 minutes at low speed with a dough hook fitted. Turn up to high for another 2 minutes. When the dough is smooth and elastic add the dried fruit and mix together.

Cover and stand aside to double in size.

After the dough has risen take from the bowl, fold and shape.

A small loaf should weigh about 465g, rolls 100g each and a large loaf uses all of the mix.

Cover and leave to rise for 45 minutes or so.

Bake in a 160c oven, Rolls take 16 minutes, loaves of whatever size 30 minutes.

Turn onto a cooling rack and whilst hot glaze them in a sugar syrup made of 2tbsp Sugar dissolved in 2 tbsp. Water. This will give them a shiny, sticky glaze.

Serve cut thickly with lots of good Butter.

Of course you need great butter whether for Splits or Saffron Bread and great Cornish butter and cream, not to forget Clotted Cream is made by Roddas and, fortunately, available in supermarkets across the UK.

Incidentally, I'm fairly sure Enid Blyton's Famous Five would have enjoyed a good cream tea, or several, during their regular adventures in Cornwall, but, writing in a post war Britain where rationing was in force their teas consisted mainly of "lashings of hard boiled eggs, tomatoes and radishes" which were not on the ration book, and their tipple of Ginger Beer would have been homemade from a Ginger Beer Plant. But I am equally sure that their tea would have included Cornish Splits not Scones.
Two  Cornish Breads that are definitely Local and Great.
The Real Bread Campaign
Foodies100 Index of UK Food Blogs
Morphy Richards


  1. Fabulous post. Two Cornish classics in one is going it some, but you have definitely done them both justice. Your saffron buns are so much yellower than mine. I had the flavour, but not so much of the colour. AND I had no idea vanilla was grown on Anglesey!!!

  2. Mybe the organic Vanilla is imported but Halen Mon have PGI status for their Sea Salt and do some great salts. More Saffron is the answer to yellowness, expensive but well worth it!