Well I must admit that my enthusiasm for weekly French cooking has sort of petered of some what... but it's also morphed into an overall near-obsessional zest for baking! :P I've baked at least 3 times a week in the past 2 weeks and it's revolved around a number of recipes that I've been trying to really get better at - raisin scones, cinnamon raisin rolls, citrus cake, brownies... I suppose if anything, I did start out trying to cook/bake French stuff, but now I've sort of gone a little more into just baking all sorts of items, not merely French ones. And it's so addictive that sometimes when I'm really bored in the day, I find myself googling recipes to try out. :D
What I'm going to be sharing today is one of the EASIEST and most REWARDING ones yet! It's Rachel Khoo's recipe for Quatre-quarts aux agrumes or, Citrus Fruit Cake. :D It's SUCH a good recipe. Very very easy to follow and EVERY SINGLE TIME it turns out really good. I was so happy when I baked it for the very first time and it came out exactly the texture and taste that I'd been hoping for and expecting. According to Rachel Khoo, it's like the French version of a British sponge cake and apparently because it's such a simple recipe, all French cooks will have some version of it committed to memory. On the most pared down level, it's basically 1. Flour 2. Sugar 3. Butter 4. Eggs in equal measure. :D
I didn't actually take any step-by-step photos because it was really pretty easy to follow. (But if anyone would like me to, I'd be more than happy to take some and explain a little more.)
Here's the recipe with just a few minor additions (of my own comments).
Ingredients you'll need:
250g golden caster sugar (I just used regular white sugar)
250g plain flour
250g butter, melted and cooled (I would do this at the very beginning! Since you have to wait for the butter to cool, might as well get it out of the way)
A pinch of salt
Finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon and 1 unwaxed orange
1 teaspoon baking power
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and flour a 23 x 12 loaf tin.
For me, I actually used a teeny tiny bread loaf and separated the batter into 3 batches. It's a lot more time consuming but I like being able to control the size of the cake and I prefer smaller cakes (easier to cut and eat). I would both butter and flour the loaf tin (even if it's non-stick) because it just makes the cake come out so much easier after baking.
2. Separate the eggs. In a bowl, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks with half of the sugar. In another bowl, beat the egg yolks and the other half of the sugar until thick and pale in colour.
FYI, don't give up on getting your egg whites nice and stiff!! It just takes a loooot of time. But keep at it. I used an electric beater and probably spent about 5 minutes or more just beating at it at medium speed. Eventually, it really does become nice and stiff, almost like meringue.
3. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, salt, zest and baking powder together.
If you haven't tried grating the skin of lemons/oranges, you're in for a workout. It can be TIRING.
4. Fold the flour mixture into the egg yolk mixture, then pour in the melted and cooled butter, stirring gently until the butter is just incorporated into the mix. Finally ,carefully fold in the egg whites.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared tin, then bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the point of a knife comes out clean when inserted in the centre.
I fill the loaf tin up to just about 3/4. You don't want to fill it too full, as I did my very first time because the cake expands and it just ends up looking like it's near exploding if you fill it too high up. Plus, mine takes only about 25 minutes, so you'll really want to just watch it the very first time. When the outer surface of the cake gets brown, you might want to try taking it out and poking a Satay stick/chopstick or knife in to see if the inside of the cake is cooked or not. If it's still mushy and sticks to the implement, put it in longer. And I guess the very first attempt will be the one that gives you a gauge of the duration of time needed to bake your cake using your oven. :) It still tastes fine even if you end up having to put it in and out of the oven a few times. (Unlike cookies/scones that just get way too hard if you keep putting them in and out =( learnt it the hard way.)
Definitely a winning recipe! :D I've made it about 3 times in the past 2 weeks and it's been a great success each time!! If you do make it, let me know how it goes! :) I'd love to hear about it.