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It's the 16th Century and Henry VIII is on the throne. From his travels to France, he's developed a taste for cherries and has instructed cherry trees to be planted in what would become the orchards of Kent.
The land around the market town of Faversham has the ideal growing conditions and orchards are established under the stewardship of Richard Harrys (Harris), the Royal Fruiterer. There's an interesting account of Harrys at http://www.teynham.org/richard_harrys.html.
As the centuries passed, the cycle of nature means that seasonal workers will arrive to pick the cherries. Many of these would be Londoners, glad to escape the stuffy atmosphere of the capital in exchange for the pleasant countryside of the South East of England.
A local farmer's wife from Faversham first baked Huffkins and, as legend has it, made a floury dimple in the middle that would hold a cherry from a cherry jam and become an ideal lunch for a seasonal worker.
Huffkins are unique to Kent and these are based on a recipe that goes back to the 18th century. You'll find recipes that require butter instead of shortening and various mixes of milk and water.
From my research, this recipe is as close to the original as I think I can reach. Hopefully, it'll work for you as well.
INGREDIENTS (for 10 Huffkins)
500 gms strong bread flour
400 gms liquid (200 gms water and 200 gms milk - both at room temperature)
50 gms vegetable shortening
5 gms crushed sea salt
12 gms fresh yeast or 6 gms of dried yeast or 4 gms of instant active yeast
5 gms dark sugar
Mix the salt, sugar and sieved flour in a large bowl.
Add the vegetable shortening and mix thoroughly.
Gently warm the milk and water until it is just tepid (about 20⁰C).
Add the yeast and the milk / water mixture to the bowl and mix thoroughly
Turn out onto a surface and knead until smooth.
Place in a lightly-oiled bowl and leave in a warm place until it has doubled in size. (About an hour)
Weigh the dough
Tip the dough onto a lightly-floured surface and knock back.
Divide into 10 equal-sized pieces.
Roll each piece into a ball and place on a greased baking tray (or a layer of parchment paper or a silicone mat). Leave space between the rolls for expansion.
Gently press the roll to flatten the top slightly to create more of an oval shape.
Flour an index finger and press in the centre of the roll to create a indentation - almost a hole, but not quite.
Cover and leave somewhere warm for about 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 220⁰C and bake for 20 minutes until they have risen and turned golden brown.
Cool on a rack.
They can be served sliced and filled or simply with a good dollop of cherry jam on the top.
The huffkins will freeze and keep for up to 3 months.
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