Sunday, August 03, 2008

The old and the new

Today was a rainy, steam on the windows baking day perfect for making a lovely honey and spice scented loaf cake of Ukrainian origin.  To whip the egg whites, I always reach for my copper bowl, a present from my husband while on holiday in the Val d'Aosta.  The proximity of that stunning Italian mountain and castle strewn region to France and Switzerland makes for great availability of kitchen and other homeware items that can be difficult to find otherwise. 

At a mere 4 years old, the bowl looks positively ancient. It's inherent. While some materials are destined to remain youthful (my stainless pasta machine, if properly cared for, will age like Sophia Loren), copper is not so fortunate. In fact, after its first use, it resembled something you might suspect was retrieved from a falling down farmhouse.

A while back (circa 2006), I wrote a draft post about pre-loved cooking implements. Baking to be specific, although old coffee pots, glassware and cutlery (I've got a thing for tiny teaspoons) are not exempt, it's predominately a baking fixation.

I love well seasoned bakeware. I scour consignment and antique shops hoping to find a long forgotten gem that is sadly sitting on a shelf awaiting a new home, a new life, and a return to its former dutiful position of evoking aromatic anticipation and providing sweet and savoury treats to waiting hands.

That said, new (although it must be quality and well built) bakeware also has its place. I'm not of the all too common present belief in disposable consumerism: of buying as cheaply as possible and that when the item is no longer of use, I'll throw it away and aquire a new one. Properly and sturdily made bakeware, stoneware and cast iron, in particular, will last indefinitely, benefiting from the time and care it takes to season it (as it will anyone willing and thoughtful enough to take that time).

This makes a lovely moist loaf (I halved the recipe). It browns significantly and has a lovely flavour enhanced with a good smear of butter. Today, since I was feeling like something smoother in texture and simplier in flavour, I left out the raisins, almonds, almond extract, and the orange zest. I also substituted a little extra cinnamon for the cloves, melted butter for the oil (more like Alford and Duguid's Homebaking recipe of the same name) and also used a small proportion of a deeper flavoured (chestnut) honey. The flavour of the coffee gives the final cake a slightly burnt note (in a good way) and, although coffee might seem a logical partner, this cake goes remarkably well with a cuppa tea.

Let it rain.

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