Friday, 9 November 2012

Loafing about.

Season of mists and mellow fruit.  I bloody love the autumn, I do!  I love the way the sunshine turns from that hazy, humid summer heat to being bright and crisp and, I know it's a cliche, but really; crunching russet-coloured leaves underfoot is as wondrous today as it was in childhood.

For me, nothing is more appropriate for the autumn than a loaf cake.  It is the very embodiment of this season, if that makes any sense at all, somehow being both comforting and curiously exciting in equal measure.  Sometimes its ingredients remain a mystery until bitten.  The nuts and fruit are often undetectable at first glance, only revealing themselves once the first slice is cut. And of course, autumnal apples, pears and plums are superb in them. 

In nearly all cases, I will choose a loaf cake over almost anything else - both to make and eat.  If I'm treating myself in a coffee shop, my loaf cake radar will be quivering dangerously over the counter.  My lemon drizzle is always loaf-shaped - I just can't imagine making a round one.   The joy of a loaf cake is its innate simplicity.  To dress it up or disguise it with frosting, is somehow apologising for its very existence.  I was once rightly reprimanded by an admirer of my banana bread, for spreading a layer of cream cheese and honey icing over the top of it.  It was a moment of weakness that I don't intend to repeat.  The cake is just fine by itself - groaning with walnuts and plump sultanas and reeking of overripe banana.

Now that  I am so frequently baking to order, recreational cake-making is a rare event - it's a sad state of affairs really, as I have about a million exciting recipes that I'm dying to try, printed off the internet, torn out of papers and magazines, or hand-written on the backs of envelopes.  They are kept in a scruffy folder in the dreaded 'kitchen drawer', and whenever I open it, it scowls at me mockingly, peeping up between the scraggy bits of string,  Ikea tape measures, felt pens that ran out of ink in 1992 and broken remote controls, their batteries long since removed in order to power some other electronic device.   But when this recipe for an orange walnut loaf cake (pictured at the top of this post) appeared in the paper the other day, how could I possibly resist?   So yes - I made it and ate it, pretty much by myself, slice by slice over the course of a week, each time with a steaming mug of tea and The Archers.  And that's another really wonderful thing about loaf cakes:  wrap them well, shove them in a sealed container and they will improve beautifully with age.

A little like those crisp autumn leaves.