Friday, January 1, 2010

Peace of Cake: Citrus Cake with Cranberry Compote

Photo by Christina Weber

Thought it might be good juju to get a post in the first day of the year. Ha! The peace-full tea towel is courtesy of my pal Chris and her studiopatró. Here's to abundant peace in the new year...

Citrus Cake with Cranberry Compote

This cake was inspired by the “Bitter Orange Cake” in Paul Bertolli’s brilliant Cooking by Hand. The moment I saw that it called for whole oranges (bloods), skin and all, it was over. I’m a fool for citrus, and much of its flavor - its oil - resides in its skin. I add it in wide peels to meat braises, stewed vegetables and poached fruit; shave it thinly into vinaigrettes, panna cotta and anglaise; chop it roughly for pestos and salsas. In this case, the whole citrus adds moist, bitter chewiness. It is, needless to say, sublime.

I have experimented with all kinds of citrus in the cake: tangerines, grapefruit, Meyer lemons. I’ve even mixed the fruit up for lovely results. I also like citrus with spice, so I add cinnamon, cloves and/or nutmeg. And the amount of sugar I use varies. Some fruit is more bitter/astringent than others, so Meyer lemon or grapefruit will probably take more, while sweet tangerines will require less. I also like different nuts with different fruit: lemon & almonds, grapefruit & hazelnuts, oranges & walnuts or pecans. I also add cranberries to the compote.

Cooking by Hand - which came out in 2003 - is still one of the most original food books I know. Bertolli cites Pablo Neruda and Thom Gunn, for goodness sake. It's not packed with recipes; doesn't have endless glossy full-page photo inserts (but little sumptuous muted black & white snaps instead); is as much about Bertolli's lucid writing as it is anything else. Twenty-four pages on the lovely tomato alone (!), with a "Conserva" recipe that will ruin you forever for store bought tomato paste. And his sections on pasta and charcuterie are little master classes themselves.

I included my altered recipe when I posted yesterday, and while I do feel that I have made the cake my own, I woke up this morning thinking the frame/idea/spark of the thing is ultimately Bertolli's, and I don't want to infringe on his copyright. So crack the book if you have it, buy the book if you don't, or stop by the Garden for some uber-tweaked variations. Meyer lemon-almond's on tonight...

1 comment:

mcs3000 said...

Happy New Year! I think you racked up a year's worth of good juju by sharing this recipe. Love your blog, tweets and restaurant. Grazie mille!