You would hardly have thought of getting any aggro from a gentle food blog like this but here’s how I nearly got into a ‘scuffle’ over a scuffler at a Sheffield Market stall called Punch. Well, perhaps not quite but you couldn’t make it up.
A week or two earlier I’d noticed a sign offering “Yorkshire scufflers, £1 a bag” at Punch Stores which sells traditional bread and confectionery. Scufflers? I’d never heard of them and they looked like breadcakes to me. I didn’t get the chance to buy but went away, did my homework and returned the following week with my camera. Scufflers would make a nice little blog post, I thought.
According to Traditional Foods of Britain, a regional inventory of local foods by Laura Mason with Catherine Brown (Prospect Books, 2004), a scuffler is the Yorkshire variant name for a stotty cake, a bread bun known throughout the North East. In Sheffield we might call it an oven bottom bread cake.
The stotty/scuffler/oven bottom bread cake was traditionally made on the floor of a wood-fired oven and the book suggests scuffler took its name from the scuffle, presumably a sort of wooden peel, used to clear the ash.
Homework done, I approached the stall and started taking pictures, perhaps too many, but several shots were spoiled and the light bounced awkwardly off the plastic bags. When I went to ask the man in charge what exactly a scuffler was he asked why I hadn’t been ‘polite’ and got permission before taking pictures of what was his livelihood.
Bemused, I told him I was in a public place and was entitled to but would have introduced myself. I told him of this blog. He asked me to delete the pictures in front of him. If I did could I retake the pictures if I asked politely? He refused. So did I. It went on a bit longer and we left it there, me thinking it was all a bit silly but the place was called Punch Stores!
I passed by later on, saw he was no longer there, and bought a bag each of plain scufflers (they also sell a wholemeal version) and teacake scufflers.
The plain scuffler is a square or rectangular bun cooked in a batch (they pull apart) measuring up to six by four inches and two inches thick. It has a floured top, soft crust and easily cuts to reveal a soft open crumb. The bottom is a gentle brown (oven bottom bread cakes from Lily’s Pork Stores have a pronounced ring on the base).
The teacake is a similar size but browner on the bottom, contains currants but no discernible spice and is sweet.
It struck me the plain scufflers at six for £1 were excellent value. There was little taste but this leaves the star billing to the filling. I can buy (and make) better teacakes in Sheffield but not for 25p each (you get four for a pound).
Ian Clayton in an amusing article in the Pontefract and Castleford Express pins scufflers down to those two towns and Featherstone. A local baker he consults says they are triangular in shape.
I’d have loved to have told you more – whether Punch makes them or buys them in, how popular they are and why people buy them in preference to breadcakes (which are more expensive). With traders grumbling that the new market is not that busy you’d have thought they would have welcomed any publicity. And if I were in charge of the market’s publicity, I’d make a kerfuffle out of scufflers.