Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Build your own cathedral

On Sunday morning, I dragged myself into the kitchen and turned to my next Christmas recipe: cathedral loaf (p57). It's one of those cakes that are so chocka with fruit and nuts that there's only a bare minimum of cake holding it all together.

I'd had to substitute some of the ingredients - dried apple bites for glacé pears, for example, and plain dried fruit instead of the glacé listed for pineapple and apricots. These I chopped into smaller pieces and set aside in a bowl along with glacé cherries, crystallised ginger, almonds and brazil nuts.

In a separate bowl, I beat eggs, sugar, vanilla essence and brandy, then added sifted flour, baking powder, nutmeg and salt. Though I'd double-sifted the dry ingredients, my attempt to fold them into the egg mixture had a very lumpy result until I gave up trying to fold and just mixed it normally instead.

I poured my now reasonably smooth mixture into the bowl of fruit and nuts, and stirred it through. In a normal cake, the fruit and nuts would become part of the overall mixture; in this one, the cake mix merely coated the main ingredients.

I lined a loaf tin with two layers of brown paper and one of baking paper, and spooned the cathedral loaf mixture in. It filled the loaf tin up to the top, but I didn't expect it to rise much. I plonked the loaf in the oven at 150, set the timer for two hours, gently poked the loose side of the oven seal back into place, and left the loaf to its own devices until the timer went off.

The cathedral loaf was looking pretty good as it came out of the oven. A little brown on top, but not too bad. It had to cool completely in the tin, so I left it on the bench for some hours before deciding it was cool, taking it out and wrapping it in tinfoil.

The instructions are to leave the loaf for two days before cutting - two days that are now up. I cut into the loaf a short while ago, using a sharp knife and attempting to cut nice thin slices as directed in the recipe. My thin slices didn't go too well, they went a bit crumbly (not inappropriately, for a cathedral loaf made in Chch in 2011) so I tried doing them a bit thicker, which worked better.

I'm quite impressed with the results of the cathedral loaf. With all that nutty, fruity goodness, it's delicious, and it looks lovely too, with the stained-glass window effect which is the obvious 'cathedral' reference. This is well worth making, as long as you bear in mind that the long list of ingredients adds up on your grocery bill too. 

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