Saturday, December 25, 2010

It's a good thing she can cook

Dear Elise,
I know you are a fan of Nigella Lawson. As far as I'm concerned, she is the Devil's Spawn. But she can cook, so I still occasionally consort with her.
I was trying to decide what to make for Christmas Eve dinner dessert. The traditional Buche de Noel seemed too show off-y and the Nantucket cranberry pie seemed not show off-y enough. I have had some of Nigella's cakes with you, a really amazing chocolate orange one stands out. And I have been circling around the plum pudding/fruit cake class of desserts for a few years now.
When I was little, hard sauce was my favorite food.
Nigella has a recipe for chocolate fruit cake. It is all prunes, raisins and currants with a little bit of candied orange peel. No glaceed cherries or brandied dates. No brandy whatsoever. Sounded like a possibility.
At first I thought I'd make a practice one, just to be sure. Well, Nigella, helpful as always, says of the recipe, "The hardest thing you have to do for this recipe is wrap the pan with brown paper." She goes on to admit that, "it is the sort of task that makes a klutz like me hyperventilate." But then reassures you that, "I find that there is nearly always someone around who can deal with that part with magnificent ease." Nigella cooks in a TV studio so I'm sure for her there is always someone around. The only thing around me are dogs and they don't have opposable thumbs and other than moral support, are no help whatsoever.
Forty-five minutes, a roll of parchment and 3 paper bags later, I had wrapped the shit out of the fucker, but there was no way this was going to be a practice cake.

Then I need some candied peel. Well, it being Dec. 23rd, there is about as much chance of buying candied peel as there is of finding some cranberries. So I have to make my own.
This is the point in the process when I start wondering what's wrong with a nice pound cake.
But I make the candied peel and I mix up the cake, which compared to what's come before, really is pretty easy. I'm not sure why the pan needed to be wrapped in eighteen layers of different sorts of heat proof paper. The batter doesn't even reach the top of the pan.
I pop it in the oven and it bakes and bakes and bakes. The Devil's Spawn, Nigella, says that the cake should be firm on top, with the center still gooey. Well, how gooey? It's not uncommon for my cakes to fall apart completely and this when I believe they are really cooked through. So "a little bit gooey" is quicksand territory for me. Eventually I have to go to bed and the center of the cake is still gooey so I take it out of the oven and leave it to cool overnight.
It actually unmolds and it doesn't fall apart. Still not sure why I needed all that wrapping, cake didn't rise above the sides of the pan.
Now I want to spiff it up a little, some top dress. The Devil's Spawn suggests marmalade, marzipan and fondant. Of course she does. She also shows it plain with just a sprig of highly poisonous holly on top. I opt for some of the home made candied peel, affixed in place with the remains of some caramel sauce I made a month ago.

It was delicious.
Love, Margaret

1 comment:

Stellasmydog said...

Well you certainly showed her!