Before baking in an oven was the norm, 'cakes' of various sorts would be prepared on a griddle or thick skillet, or even a bakestone. King Alfred's burnt cakes were doubtless of that sort - it is easy to take your eyes off the griddle and miss the point where cooking changes to cremating.
Singin' Hinnies are a North East traditional food, recalled by Jane Grigson in her English Food as one of the great pleasures of her upbringing in that region. Hinny is a term of affection, from honey or maybe hen(ny), most often but not exclusively used of a child, demonstrating the place this little confection has in Northumberland hearts; and singin' refers to the sizzle on the cooking surface as they are prepared, the fats in the dough and on the griddle causing the little cake to dance.
The dough for the singin' hinny uses lard and butter, and it is raised with bicarbonate of soda or cream of tartar, or both, with a little milk to loosen the mix. Traditionally currants provide an extra flavour, though modern versions can be found with berries of other sorts replacing them. Most importantly of all, the fat used to grease the griddle should be animal fat - generally lamb, but at a pinch lard would do: this is because such fats give the characteristic spitting sizzle that makes the dish sing, whereas vegetable oils will not. The hinny should be eaten warm, or hot if possible, sliced open and spread with a thick layer of butter to melt into the cake and rapidly thereafter into the recipient's mouth.
Singin' hinnies are associated with celebrations, including children's parties, and it is customary to put a carefully cleaned (best boiled briefly) or brand new coin, or more than one if circumstances allowed, wrapped in greaseproof paper, in a hinny, for the lucky eater or eaters to find - an added benefit of this munificence being that children savour them more slowly to preserve their teeth from the coin.
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