Hi, I love this section of your website, so helpful. Please could you tell me why Nigella boils the fruit in brandy first for the Traditional Christmas Cake. Am I ok just to put the dried fruit into a container and miss out the part where I put it in a saucepan and bring it to the boil? Thanks.
Nigella's Traditional Christmas Cake (from NIGELLA CHRISTMAS) is a rich fruit cake that can be made in advance and stored for a couple of months before Christmas. The dried fruits are put into a saucepan with alcohol and brought to a simmer, then left to cool and steep overnight. This speeds up the absorption of liquid by the fruits and makes them plump up more quickly.
If you want to put the fruit in a container with the alcohol instead, we would suggest that you let the fruit soak for 2 to 3 days (or up to a week), so the the fruit has plenty of time to swell up. Also make sure that the container is tightly covered, as alcohol will evaporate slightly if left open to the air. Don't forget to take the butter (and eggs, if refrigerated) out of the the fridge the night before you make the cake, so that everything is at room temperature before you mix the cake batter.