Thursday, November 29, 2007

Making the Best of It.

Yesterday I picked up a magazine (someone elses's for a change) and came across some useful info when making cakes - which I will now pass on. My personal asides are given in brackets (which is not unusual for me):

Always use ingredients at room temperature (temperature not specified, but I would suggest a warm (summer) room temperature as butter can be rock hard in my kitchen during the winter).
Cold eggs can cause the creamed mixture to curdle (books suggest adding a bit of flour if this begins to happen and this I always did do, BUT...). Adding flour to prevent this can cause the baking cake to dome and crack.
If the creamed mixture does begin to curdle, place the bowl over a pan of warm water and beat well.
When making a fruit cake (I do like this tip) push down any visible fruit into the cake or they could burn during the baking.

On Rosemary Shrager's 'School for Cooks' yesterday, they were showing how to make sausages, and yet another useful tip given which I did not know about, but as always, makes perfect sense when you think about it.
This is - add fat to the lean meat when mincing, then add flavourings and some water (I didn't know water was used, but it seems it is) before adding the rusk. If you add the rusk first, it absorbs the water, and then the fat runs out of the sausages when they are cooked (and however healthy this might sound, it makes for a very dry sausage). Adding the water first, it combines with the meat and stays there. Then, adding the rusk at the final stage this then remains dry - thus, when the sausages are cooked, it is ready to soak up the melting fat, which remains in and makes the sausages a lot more succulent.

Most recipes do not give 'the reason why' when they give the method of making. Often it is not necessary, but where I can I try to include as much info as possible, because the more we understand about what can or will happem if such and such is done, the easier cooking can become and the more our experimenting is likely to work.
There is a tendency to make cakes by throwing all the ingredients into a food processor and blitzing it together to make the batter which is then baked. But the result will never be as light as if the butter and sugar were creamed first for up to at least 10 minutes (preferably by hand)to the lightest fluffiest mixture before eggs (room temperature remember) were beaten in and twice sifted flour then carefully folded into the batter. Much cookery today depends more on speed than the final result, and from the nutritional angle, it doesn't really matter, because food is food is food (as long as it is home-made and not the ready packaged stuff). So when it comes to home-cooking, suit the way best for you. But for perfection, worth taking that little bit more time.
For my final recipe today is a modern version of one from the past. Very quick and easy to make, you then leave it to stand and - well, all I can say is eat and enjoy (yes I know cream is expensive, but once in a while).
Grandma's Lemon Custard Cream: serves 6
1 pt (600ml) double cream
6 oz (175g) caster sugar
juice 2 lemons
sprigs of mint or grated chocolate for garnish
Pour the cream into a saucepan and stir in the sugar. Bring to the boil and bubble rapidly for 3 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the lemon juice and mix well. Pour into 6 individual serving glasses (warm these first to prevent the hot dessert cracking the glass). One the custand cream is cool, chill for at least an hour. Garnish with a spring of mint or dusting of grated chocolate.