Friday, April 15, 2005

Try, Try Again

In the past, if I tried a new recipe once and was fairly happy with it, I would go ahead and add it to my cookbook without much further thought. Unfortunately, this means that there are currently a number of recipes in my cookbook that I have made only once and never gone back to for a second tasting.

But now, I find that if a recipe is pretty good on the first try, but there's something I'd like to change slightly or test with different ingredients, I'll hold off until I've given it more thorough testing before I share it with my cookbook list.

The tea cake that I made for the Georgian meal is such a recipe. The first time through, I didn't have plum jam, and though the cake turned out tasty, I wasn't entirely satisfied with it. There were also one or two steps that I had taken shortcuts on, which left me wondering if it really tasted the way it should.

After that meal, I had discussed the menu and the problems with the tea cake with my hard-working and ever-upbeat colleague, She-Who-Brings-Fresh-Donuts. The next day, she brought me two jars of mirabelle plum jam from a French recipe, the same plum jam she uses in a favorite family cookie recipe. Such generosity! So I knew I would have to try the tea cake recipe again, not only for my own curiosity but also to thank my friend.

Last evening I pulled all the ingredients together and gave it a go. Instead of making one cake, I used two loaf pans for two smaller cakes so that She-Who-Brings-Fresh-Donuts would have one for her and her husband to share on their road trip this weekend, leaving one for me to share with the fair Titania.

Once again, I wasn't quite careful enough in carmelizing the sugar (it does need to be stirred, not shaken), but the proper plum jam did make a difference in that I didn't have chunks of fruit scattered throughout the cake. The flavor was good: rich but not terribly sweet. And this time I did spread plum jam (heated with a bit of water to thin it) on the top of each cake and sprinkled them both with crushed walnuts, which added a nice contrast in texture.

Now I'm satisfied, and I can type up the recipe and include it in my cookbook. I have more of the plum jam and can try it again sometime as I'm wondering if a hint of spices would be good, but as it stands, it can be shared with others.

The old saying is true, and it never hurts to give something a second try.

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