Every sweetness needs a bit of savoury, she thinks. And this evening's sweetness is certainly offset by a tinge of melancholy, though it isn’t the evening she is thinking about - at least not entirely. She is focused on being a good host, being cheery and gregarious company for her loved ones in the next room, and - maybe most importantly - ensuring they are well-fed. She is preparing a dessert in her small kitchen, watching thick amber drizzle simmer in a steel pot, and listening to the muffled laughter on the other side of the kitchen's wall.
But as of tomorrow, this kitchen will no longer be hers; she is moving out. Her two years of living in this north Dublin house have dwindled to this final evening, and though she is not excessively sentimental she wants to mark the occasion with a farewell dinner party. While the main course came with the appropriate anxiety levels, it is the modest dessert that has worried her the most.
She is not a sweet tooth and so she has had little urge to bake sweet things in her life. Naturally, this lack of practice has left her with less-than-adequate faith in her baking skills. Still, even the saltiest palate craves a little sugar now and then. On those rare occasions when she hungers and whatever savoury foods at hand don't fulfil her, she has fallen back on a reliably easy confectionary - Cardamon and Dailies Coriander Seed Drizzle Loaf Cake; minimum fuss for a minimal sweet tooth. This is the treat she is baking to wash down a melancholy night of good eating and good living.
She wipes her brow with the back of her wrist, squats down in front of the oven and sees that the brick of loaf cake is finished. She twists the oven's dials so the humming fan quietens and she slides on two thick mitts, opens the oven door, and pulls out the narrow baking tray. She slides the brick of baked goodness onto the kitchen counter and like a detective at a murder scene she inspects the shape and colour, seeking evidence that it is baked to completion.
She returns to the steel pot barely bubbling over the hob’s heat and she lifts the handle and hovers it over the loaf. In a delicate tilt the amber drools over the cake’s cratered surface. She allows it to settle, enjoying the last few minutes of solitude in her once home, and finally slices the cake into bitesize pieces. She plates the dessert and leaves the kitchen, taking a breath in front of a door with a shimmered glass pane, watching the silhouettes of those she loves. She enters to applause.
Elysia’s Farewell Loaf Cake (modified from Anna Jones' Recipe)
- 200 grams soft unsalted butter (plus some for greasing)
- 200 grams demerara sugar
- 200 grams ground almonds
- 100 grams fine polenta (or cornmeal)
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- 3 large eggs
- zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
- Zest of 1 unwaxed orange
- 4 cardamom pods
- 4 tablespoons of honey
- 1 teaspoon of orange blossom water
- 2 teaspoons of toasted sesame seeds
- 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon of Daillies organic coriander seeds.
For the loaf:
- Preheat the oven to 170C/335F/gas 3 and grease and line a 900g (2lb) loaf tin.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, almonds, baking powder, and a pinch of salt.
- Whisk the butter, sugar, and honey until they form a creamy and well-combined mixture.
- Add both zests to the mixture, and then gradually add the eggs one at a time, ensuring each one is well mixed before adding the next.
- Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into the mixture, adding a large spoonful at a time and mixing well after each addition.
- Transfer the batter into the prepared loaf tin, a spoonful at a time.
- Bake for approximately 55 minutes to one hour, or until the cake is a dark golden colour on top.
For the drizzle:
- Crush the cardamon pods in a mortar and pestle until they release their seeds.
- Put the seeds into a pan with the remainder of the drizzle ingredients.
- Bring to a simmer and reduce to a thin syrup, it will get slightly thicker as it cools.
- Prick the cake a few times all over then pour the drizzle over liberally!
Pairing by Elysia