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Barley Bread, Barley Apple Cake and Fairings...

Thanks to Chris Barnard and Red Sangre for their photography and art work

Moving from drinks on to is mentioned frequently in the books.  Rabbit pasty, barley bread, barley cake,  stargazey pie, lamb pie, kidney pudding, and various other foods are mentioned.  They made their own beer and cheese and Demelza picked blackberries.  I would not be surprised if they had apple trees growing around Nampara. An heirloom apple tree called Gillyflower dates to 1813 in  Truro and can still be found and purchased.  Perhaps Ross and Demelza planted a few?

I was intrigued by the references to foods made with barley flour.  I have only used barley pearls not flour and found it difficult to locate.  I ordered a 24 oz bag of Organic Barley Flour (Arrowhead Mills) from Amazon for $9.00.  A quick check on the internet told me that today in Cornwall most barley is grown as an animal food and for making beer.

Demelza makes bread frequently in the tv series.  I assume she is making a yeast bread, but to me a quick bread like Irish Soda Bread would be more practical as it could be made fresh daily. According to Cornish Cookery, Recipes of Today and Yesteryear by Vida Heard, baking was often done right in the ashes of the fire of the hearth, and later a cloam (pottery) oven was used for special once a week baking.  This seems to confirm to me that perhaps daily breads were made in the hearth.

The poet John Keats apparently was fond of barley bread with clotted cream.  He even wrote a poem:

Barley meal

'Here all the summer could I stay
For there's a Bishop's Teign,
And King's Teign,
And Coomb at the clear Teign's head;
You may have your cream
All spread upon Barley bread'
(poems written at Teignmouth)

I adapted an Irish Soda Bread recipe and the results were tasty.  It is not a dense bread but rather light.  Best just out of the oven with butter!


2 c. Barley flour

2 c whole wheat flour

½  c oats

1 ½ tsp. salt

1 tsp soda

1 ¾ c. buttermilk

2 T molasses

Preheat oven to 450.  Mix all dry ingredients, make a well in the center, mix in wet ingredients.

Knead a couple times and place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Flatten the ball to 2 ½ “ then take a knife and make a cross cross on the top.  Bake for 15 minutes at 450 then lower to 400 and continue to bake 20-25 minutes.

Serve warm with butter!


2 c. Barley flour
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
2 apples, pared and chopped
1/2  c. whipping cream
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. honey

Preheat oven to 400.  Sift together the flours, baking powder and salt. Beat eggs lightly with a fork.  Combine with apples, cream, and honey, and add to dry ingredients. Mix well. Batter will be stiff.  Pour into a loaf pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.

I found this more like a bread than cake. It is not very sweet but the honey gives it a nice flavor and will help keep the bread/cake moist for a long time.

One of the interesting differences in our culinary terms - cookie vs biscuit.  Not the same at all!  In the US a biscuit is like an unsweet scone.  Cookie comes from the Dutch koekje.  The Dutch came early to the New World in the 1600s.

In looking for authentic Cornish foods I discovered  Cornish Fairings.  A cookie or biscuit that was sold at fairs.  These are really, really good!

Cornish Fairing

4 oz unsalted butter (one stick)
4 oz  (1/2 c) brown sugar
2 T. molasses (golden syrup in the UK)
1 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground mixed spice (Allspice)
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. bicarbonate of soda

Preheat oven to 350.  Line two sheet pans with parchment paper.  Put the butter, sugar and molasses in a saucepan and heat on low heat until the butter has melted. Do not boil.  Sift the flour, and spices & soda into a bowl, then add the melted butter mixture and gently beat to form a smooth dough.  

Using either a small scoop or teaspoon, place 6 cookies on a sheet pan with plenty of room as they spread.  Slightly flatten.  I used a drinking glass.  You can dip in sugar so it does not stick to the dough.

Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden brown.  Allow to cool completely on the baking sheet before removing. These are addictively good. Wonderful with a pot of hot tea! One recipe makes about two dozen cookies.  A trick I learned from my grandmother - put a piece of bread in with the cookies if they become too crisp or hard. The bread becomes stale and the cookies regain moisture.  This also works with brown sugar if it becomes hard.

Speaking of tea! Here's another recipe good for tea time. Blackberry Tea Bread, more like cake though with a nice "crumb." Again, not too sweet. 

Blackberry Tea Bread

12 oz  (1 1/2 c.) plain flour
1 tsp. mixed spice (allspice)
4 oz (one stick) unsalted butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c honey
1 tsp. lemon peel*
1 T. molasses
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. bicarbonate of soda
1/2 c. buttermilk
1 package fresh blackberries (if using frozen, 1 c. straight from the freezer)

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease a loaf or tube pan (I used tube).  Sift together the flour, spice and soda.  Soften the butter, add sugar, honey and then eggs, mix well.  Add molasses to the buttermilk, stir into the butter mixture then add to the dry ingredients, add lemon peel (I had dried on hand and would add another tsp to make 2 for more lemon flavor, if using fresh, use the entire lemon). Stir in blackberries last.  Place in baking tin and bake for approximately 30 minutes.  Check with tooth pick to be sure bread is done in the middle.  Allow to cool about 15 minutes before turning out.  The honey in this will allow it to keep several days if it lasts that long!

Serve with clotted cream or faux clotted cream made with whipping cream, a tablespoon of sour cream & powdered sugar.   I adapted this recipe from one in the National Trust Tea Time cookbook.  I made substitutions based on "what would a farm such as Nampara have on hand?" ie eggs, buttermilk, blackberries, honey & brown sugar.  Do I know this? No, but seems likely to me. The plates I used to display the foods on are from the early 1800s... the top is called Queensware and the bottom is pink lustre,the decorations were done by hand.

Over the years I have collected vintage baking tins, here are a few. The fluted pan in the lower right is the tin I used for baking the Blackberry Tea Bread. They can easily be found at antique shops, flea markets, etc. 

Up next - saffron cake & buns. Saffron? Yes, saffron was grown in Cornwall!  Also, Madeira cake (which has no Madeira in it) and a report on the "experiment" called Geneva.

My 1790s dress is completed, I will blog about that in the future as well as I pull together all the other components of the ensemble - hat, embroidered garters, jewelry, shoes & stockings.

Thanks for reading my blog!
Bonny Wise

This post first appeared on Inspired By Poldark, please read the originial post: here

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Barley Bread, Barley Apple Cake and Fairings...


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