Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Anatomy of a great recipe

With making a Christmas fruit cake in mind, online recipes mainly call for a list of ingredients as long as your arm. Requiring some serious printing out in order to make sure you have it all which entails buying obscure items that you only need half the quantity and that then sit in the back of your cupboard until the next clear out. Even if it wasn't Christmas cake, my eyes usually glaze over if I am first faced with a long ingredients list that I do not even want to go further into the recipe.

On the other hand, some recipes require some preciseness and explanation which can be difficult to know where to draw the line between explanation and detail actually required. Not everyone is at the same level of cooking skills which I guess also plays a part in what is required of a recipe. Some recipes can be so vague and I have come across misprinted recipes that leave out essential ingredients or steps required. Essentially we need to know the ingredients and then what to do with them, that is for sure, but along the way there needs to be brevity with room for adapting the recipe to the needs of the cook and ingredients available.

As an example, joy upon joys in the early of this morning when I came across this recipe for Boiled Rum Fruit Cake which has truncated the usual list of fruits and peels and nuts with this:

1kg mixed fruits and nuts of your choice

How simplified is that? What is more, I was able to go directly to my cupboards and pull out bits of this and that which made up the quantity I wanted to make so that here I am at not even 8pm and the cake has already been cooking for nearly an hour. If it was one of the other recipes I had seen it would have entailed a trip to the supermarket, once the shops had opened, before even starting.

I have modified the recipe by adding some tiny blocks of dark chocolate also sat in the cupboard, some espresso instant coffee, and the zest and juice of two oranges. This meant leaving out the last bit of rum unfortunately, and increasing the dry ingredients. If I'd have thought of it earlier I'd have left out some of the milk instead. The cake now should be Chocolate Orange and Rum Fruit Cake. The smell of it baking is divine. The cake batter was scrummy.

The lining of the cake pan with parchment paper was quite high, as suggested in other recipes I had read, and as a result I had doubled it over to make it fit rather than cutting it and leaving me with a long strip of paper. Considering I was using a pan that was not big enough luckily the lining was reinforced in this way as I can see from the shadow that the cake has risen at least 2cm above the level of the pan but I have to wait longer before I can get a good view. Fingers crossed it bakes really well and cooks throughout without burning.

UPDATE: to the right is the finished cake upside down with a wodge of fondant icing around the rim of the "bottom" to even it out and bits of fondant squeezed into the gaps to make the surfaces smoother. I just rolled out the fondant and laid it straight over the cake - no  marzipan. At the top is a photo of *my* cake with it's main icing and a bow decoration. Not very Christmassy with that bow but I wanted to do it. I'm out to work which  gives me time to not mess the cake at this stage with doing too much. I have more fondant and might consider some more Christmassy decorations to go on top.


Shephard said...

I have never tried doing fondant, but I know it can be made so it's not rubbery. Our wedding cake had it, and it was delicious! Still... it looks like it takes quite a careful hand. You could always add some sort of red berry design to it, and that would be about all you'd need for it to look Christmassy. If you wanted it to. :)

Doris said...

Eeeks I didn't make the fondant, it was ready made and I just had to roll it out. However, I impressed myself with how smoothly it looked considering I didn't have any special smoothing tools. Thank you Shephard for your idea as you are right it would look festive and tasteful. I have though, gone for rolled out fondant stars sprayed with edible gold and sprayed the ribbon gold on account of the gold theme I have going on this year. There is a star for each of our guests which makes up for it being a bit heavy handed with stars!