Hobbit Week: Plum Heavies
Chocolate and vanilla may seem ubiquitous today, but they’re actually both new world beans. That means Tolkien explicitly excluded them from the Shire, even though both flavors were quite popular in Victorian England. Plum Heavies were the cheap, kids cookies of their day.
Victorian country cooks would knead in a handful of diced plums plus a little extra sugar into any scraps of leftover pastry. Once that was rolled out, they’d cut the pastry into small, child sized bites with a 1-2 inch / 2.5 – 5 cm cookie cutter. Once baked up nice and crunchy, the durable pastry could be stored at room temperature for a week or more. This made them equally good treats for good behavior or parental bribes when you just need to put something in your kid’s mouth in order to hush them up.
If you’re feeling traditional, Plum Heavies should be made with whatever leftover dough you have around spiked with whatever dried fruit is handly. Chopped raisins and currants were just as popular as plums.
For folks who don’t happen to have a lump of leftover pastry dough sitting around after making some second breakfast hand pies or luncheon Steak and Ale pie, here’s how to make these rural Victorian treats from scratch.
2 ½ c / 500 g flour
1 c / 225 g butter, softened
½ c / 115 g sugar – plus extra for dusting
½ c / 115 g minced plums
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp cinnamon
1 egg, beaten to glaze
Beat the butter, sugar, cinnamon, and milk until you have a dense, fatty mess. Sweeten it up by adding in your minced plums (or other fruit.) Once those are thoroughly integrated, add the flour.
It’s time to give up on stirring and just use your hands. Really work the flour into the buttery mix. Once everything is well integrated, knead the dough a few times for good measure.
Roll the dough out to about ¼ inch / 6 mm thickness. Attack the dough with a small, round cookie cutter about 1 ½ inches / 3 cm wide. Remember, the goal here isn’t a giant American cookie. It should be just big enough for 2-3 bites. These don’t inflate much, so you can squeeze a lot of them onto a cookie sheet.
Keep at it until you finally run out of dough.
If you’d like, you can whisk an egg with a tbsp of water for a glaze. Use a pastry brush to paint it on top of the pastry bites. Follow that up with a light dusting of extra sugar.
If you use whole raisins or currants, they have a tendency to rise to the top of the cookies. When baked, they’ll look like fruit exploded from the surface. While that’s kind of fun, it’s also hard to store effectively. You can get around that by properly mincing all your fruit. The sticky cut sides anchor to the pastry, helping the pieces stick in place.
Bake your plum heavies at 350F/180C for 15-18 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown and crunchy. They’ll turn into a tough mess if refrigerated, so store them in a closed container (like a cookie jar) at room temperature for up to a week.
Need more Hobbity goodness in your life?
Preview even more recipes from An Unexpected Cookbook: The Unofficial Book of Hobbit Cookery, available now!
Sample recipes from all seven chapters of An Unexpected Cookbook:
Breakfast – Poached Pears Stuffed with Frumenty
Second Breakfast – Beef and Mushroom Stuffed Hand Pies
Elevenses – Shire Seed Cake
Luncheon – Stewed Hare with Root Vegetables and Dumplings
Afternoon Tea – Shortbread
Supper – Stuffed Roasted Mushrooms
Dinner – Boxty on the Griddle with Bacon
Need more? Get your own copy of An Unexpected Cookbook: The Unofficial Book of Hobbit Cookery from Amazon.com.