Sunday, October 21, 2012

A mediocre morning's work

I decided this weekend I would make some dried apricot jam (p226), a somewhat unusual recipe presumably intended for those of us who a) have a desperate need to make apricot jam when apricots aren't in season, or b) have an excess of dried apricots for some reason. Can't say either of these things happen to me a lot, but you never know.

The apricots need to be soaked in water for 12 hours, so I chopped them up and sat them to soak overnight. In the morning, I decided that before I did anything with the jam, I'd use the leftover apricots, along with various other dried fruit, in a fruit loaf (p28).

It didn't take long to get the fruit loaf in the oven - you just rub butter into the sifted dry ingredients, add sugar and dried fruit, (I used apricots, prunes, dates, sultanas and currants) then mix to a soft dough with egg and milk. Well, it says 'soft dough': mine was much too runny to be called a dough, but I'd used all the right quantities, so I just shrugged and spooned it into the lined loaf pan.

I hadn't actually got around to replacing that ghastly Homebrand baking paper, and would have been better off taking my chances with an unlined tin, (after all, it was supposedly a non-stick loaf tin) but I'd convinced myself that in previous trials I must have been using the wrong side of the paper. So I went ahead and lined the tin, making sure the paper went in shiny side up. Did this make a difference? Nope.

When the cooking time was up, I stuck a skewer into the loaf and found it was still runny in the centre. After a further 10 minutes, it was looking dark on top, but at least it was cooked through. I left it in the tin for ten minutes before taking it out and attempting (with minimal success) to remove the baking paper that was stuck fast to the entire base of the loaf.

Once the loaf was out of the oven, I turned my attention back to the jam, boiling the apricots for 20 minutes before adding crushed pineapple, sugar and lemon juice. The recipe requires half a cup of lemon juice, which is about 4 lemons. I was typically disorganised on this point and was hurriedly juicing lemons (intermittently yelping each time fresh lemon juice found its way into a papercut on my finger) long past the point when everything should have been added to the pot.

I got everything in there finally, and once the sugar had dissolved, I stood stirring and waiting for 'setting point'. It had been bubbling away for some time before I decided it would do, though in hindsight this decision owed more to impatience than any evidence that setting point had actually been reached. I ladelled the jam into jars, sealed them up and left them to set.

Well, it hasn't set, really. It's a bit firmer than before, but still very runny. Besides, it has an odd flavour for a jam. It's very sweet, and pretty much tastes of pineapple until you come across a chunk of apricot. Not really sure what I'm going to do with three jars of runny pineappley stuff with chunks of apricot in it!

As for the loaf, it was a lot like most of the loaves I've made: misshapen, dark and crusty on the outside but reasonably soft inside, and on the whole, fairly underwhelming. There's a lot to be said for a nicely-made loaf, but somehow, I don't seem to have the knack of it.

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