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A puzzle about pikelets

Sometimes the spellings in our Cookbook can cause some confusion. Today’s recipe for “Barrow” pikelets had us scratching our heads for some time. What could it mean? A traditional dish from Barrow-in-Furness? Some reference trading pikelets from barrows or carts?

Finally, it dawned. Our ladies’ “barrow” pikelets have their roots in bara pyglyd  – a Welsh term for a bituminous (sticky) bread. The term was later corrupted to bara-picklet, then bara pikelet, until finally the ‘bara’ fell out of use.

To further confuse matters, ‘pikelet’ is used in different regions and countries to refer to slightly different things – in the North of England pikelets take the form of a  flat, rounded bread with tiny holes, which can be spread with butter. In Australasia, a pikelet is a kind of drop scone or griddle cake.

The pikelet recipe in the Cookbook describes how to prepare something more akin to a crumpet. The dough is cut and moulded into shapes before being cooked on the griddle, creating deeper cakes than the flat, free-form pikelets that are traditional in the northern counties:

"To Make Barrow Pikeletts": an 18th century recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

‘To Make Barrow Pikeletts’ – an 18th century recipe from The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

To Make Barrow Pikeletts

Take a pottle of the finest flower. Add to it the 3 part of a pint of bleachd barm. Work the dough & let it stand half an hour, then cut the cakes into what size you please. Then mould them up & let them stand half an hour before you put them on the gridle & at first have a slow fire, but when you turn them make quick.

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