Sunday, December 30, 2007

Out with a Bang (and a tip)!

I suppose this will be the last post of 2007 for me (I cannot believe how fast 2007 flew by), so I thought I would leave you with the best discovery I made just a few weeks ago. I think it might just be something that you folks will appreciate.

So, every year since I can remember, my mother has made this thing called simnal cake. It's kind of like fruit cake, and usually served at easter but she makes it for Christmas, except it's lighter than traditional fruitcake and it has gorgeous marzipan in it and dried fruits and it just hits the spot. I used to make it myself every year (well, as an adult) up until the dreaded diagnosis. So what's a girl to do? Well, I for one have been looking for a fruit cake recipe that I can make that I can adapt without nuts. And to be honest, they've all been failures. There's something about the nuttiness that makes the fruit cake a fruit cake.

Right about now you're thinking to yourself, Peanut Free Mama is perhaps the only person in the world who likes fruitcake - that stuff is terrible! Can I send her mine? Ok, now before you click over to another blog, give me a chance.

This Christmas I managed to find a delicious fruitcake (that I served to my 18 guests for Christmas Eve - they loved it!) that I was able to adapt with a suitable and workable replacement for almonds. I don't expect you to go out and make this fruitcake, but when you're reading a recipe that calls for ground almonds, give this a shot.

So here's the recipe I found in Gourmet in the December 2007 issue. It's a gorgeous recipe, all boozy and full of fruits. Maybe since it's called a pound cake with fruit you'll be tempted to try it.


HOLIDAY FRUIT-FILLED POUND CAKE
Gourmet | December 2007

Unlike traditional fruitcakes, which are usually soaked in liquor and can be prepared weeks in advance, this version is best eaten within five days of baking.

Makes 12 servings

Gina Marie Miraglia Eriquez

ingredients

3/4 cup Cognac or other brandy
2/3 cup golden raisins
2/3 cup currants
2/3 cup dried apricots, finely chopped
2/3 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup whole blanched almonds plus
1/3 cup for top of cake (6 ouncecs total)
1 cup sugar, divided
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
3 tablespoons sweet orange marmalade or apricot preserves
1 tablespoon orange-flavored liqueur

Equipment: a 9-inch springform pan

preparation

Heat brandy in a 1-quart saucepan over low heat until warm, then remove from heat and stir in dried fruit.

Cover and let stand 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325°F with rack in middle.

Invert bottom of springform pan and lock on side. Generously butter pan and dust with flour, knocking out excess.

Finely grind 3/4 cup almonds with 1/4 cup sugar in a food processor, then whisk together with flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.

Beat butter and remaining 3/4 cup sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well
after each addition (batter will appear curdled), then add vanilla, zest, and fruit with brandy and beat until thoroughly combined, about 2 minutes.

At low speed, mix in flour mixture until incorporated.

Spoon batter into pan, smoothing it, and top with remaining 1/3 cup almonds.

Bake until a long wooden pick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours.

Run a thin metal spatula around side of cake, then cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt marmalade with liqueur in a small heavy saucepan over medium

heat, stirring, then strain glaze through a sieve into a small bowl, discarding solids.

Loosen side of cake with thin metal spatula again, then remove side of pan and loosen bottom of cake.

Transfer cake from pan to rack and brush glaze over top of cake.

Cool cake completely, about 3 hours.

Cooks' notes:

• Cake improves in flavor if made 1 day ahead.
• Cake keeps, wrapped in parchment paper, then foil, and put in a sealed bag, at room temperature 5 days or frozen 2 weeks (bring to room temperature before serving).
after each addition (batter will appear curdled), then add vanilla, zest, and fruit with brandy and beat until thoroughly combined, about 2 minutes.

At low speed, mix in flour mixture until incorporated.

Spoon batter into pan, smoothing it, and top with remaining 1/3 cup almonds.

Bake until a long wooden pick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours.

Run a thin metal spatula around side of cake, then cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt marmalade with liqueur in a small heavy saucepan over mediumheat, stirring, then strain glaze through a sieve into a small bowl, discarding solids.

Loosen side of cake with thin metal spatula again, then remove side of pan and loosen bottom of cake.

Transfer cake from pan to rack and brush glaze over top of cake.

Cool cake completely, about 3 hours.

Cooks' notes:

• Cake improves in flavor if made 1 day ahead.
• Cake keeps, wrapped in parchment paper, then foil, and put in a sealed bag, at room temperature 5 days or frozen 2 weeks (bring to room temperature before serving).

And after first reading it, I think, I'm in the clear, no nuts! But then I read it again. Ground almonds in the cake (and whole almonds on top). The almonds on top I can omit, but what about the ground almonds? I emailed Gourmet and (of course) got no response. Was I going to let this recipe get the better of me? There HAD to be a solution (other than omitting them).

And then it came to me.

Coconut.

I'd use coconut and I just KNEW it would work. And it did, it really did! I found a bag of raw coconut (definitely not the sweetened kind) in the hippie section of my supermarket (you know the area - with all the bulk bins of flax seed). I did the exact same measurement of coconut as was called for almonds - 3/4 of a cup, and I omitted the almonds on the top of the cake. When you blitz the coconut with the sugar, the consistency isn't as wet as if it were with almonds, but it is very close. I would suggest using a little more brandy to soak the fruit if you want a moister cake (that's what I did - but don't worry, the smell of booze alone will keep the kids away).

The verdict - this cake tasted like it had almonds in it, but it was the coconut. It was SO good and I was SO pleased. I am thinking that this switcheroo could be used for a variety of recipes that call for almonds in ground form.

I hope this tip helps you in some way. Have any of you ever tried this substitution? The whole time I was making this, I was thinking - wait until I tell everyone online how it turned out!

Happy New Year Everyone. Have a safe and happy entry into 2008 - I'll be back with more regularity next week...

1 comment:

ChupieandJ'smama said...

Sounds yummy! I'll have to remember the coconut trick. I'm not going to attempt a wheat free, egg free version of this though. I'm not that talented :) Happy New Year to you and your family!!