Home Food DigiBites: Weekend Fare – Using Port And A Puréed Orange!

DigiBites: Weekend Fare – Using Port And A Puréed Orange!

The Epicurean Exchange

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One of our most popular classes here at Epicurean Exchange Culinary Travel is our Spanish Tapas and Paella Feast. We’re returning to Catalonia, Spain in September. On tour, our guests will learn about the proper ingredients and tools to make this classic Spanish dish. Here in Orinda, it’s said that Chef Charlie makes the BEST paella this side of Barcelona and, if I do say so myself – it’s TRUE! With that, we are offering a number of paella sessions on our new fall schedule: https://epicureanexchange.com/class-schedule/

Chef Charlie

At the end of our feast, we present a unique, Spanish cake that has an uncommon list of ingredients, including a whole, cooked and puréed orange. This cake has a unique and delicious flavor and texture due to the orange and other ingredients: polenta and Marcona almonds.

The Orange: The recipe calls for 1 medium navel orange. Medium is approximately the size of a baseball (not a softball), and should be heavy and the rind smooth. A smooth skin indicates that the orange has less rind and more pulp and will flavor the cake properly. It will also be easier the purée the orange if the skin is not too thick. I have tried using other types of oranges, including Blood and Cara Cara, and both work well.
The Marcona Almonds (available at Whole Foods): According to the online source, The Spruce Eats, “Marcona almonds are a type of sweet, gourmet almond from Spain that is very popular in Mediterranean countries. Their texture is closer to that of a macadamia nut, and they are rounder and plumper than the more common California almond. These sweet almonds can be enjoyed on their own as a gourmet treat or used in any recipe that calls for almonds. Nutritionally there is minimal difference between the more common almond and the Marcona, but the flavor is another story. The Marcona almond is far sweeter, moister, and softer than the classic almond variety with a buttery flavor and texture. It has a delicate aroma and taste that is reminiscent of the almond essence used in baked goods”.
The Polenta: This should be medium ground polenta or cornmeal, and can be found at better markets. For best results, I recommend Bob’s Red Mill or Community Grains Red Flint Polenta (available at Pasta Shop, Market Hall, Rockridge). However, it is perfectly good with medium-ground cornmeal, packaged or in bulk.

The weather should be cooling down, so it will be OK to bake this weekend!
Buen Provecho!
– Chef Charlie

Smell the orange?

Orange – Polenta – Almond Cake with Dried Fig and Port Syrup

For the Cake:

1 medium whole navel orange with peel
1 cup roasted Marcona almonds
1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup polenta
6 ounces butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream, whipped to soft, and slightly sweetened with powdered sugar

Makes 1 – 8-inch cake; serves 8 – 12

•     Place the WHOLE orange in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer the orange for 30 minutes. Remove orange from the water and cut into 12 pieces, and allow to cool.

•     Place the Marcona almonds in a food processor and process until finely ground (but not butter). Remove and set aside.

•     In the same food processor bowl (no need to clean the bowl), add the cooled orange pieces and process; scraping down the sides of the bowl once, and finishing until smooth.  Remove the purée from processor and set aside.

•     In a small mixing bowl, add the flour, cornstarch and polenta, and stir to combine. Add the ground almonds, mix well, and set aside.

•     In a separate bowl, using a hand mixer, cream the softened butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until smooth. Add the orange purée and vanilla and mix until thoroughly combined. Finally, add the dry ingredients the wet mixture and mix well.

•     Preheat oven to 325˚F.  Prepare an 8 – inch cake pan by coating liberally with butter. Transfer the cake batter to the pan; place the pan in to center of the oven, and bake for 35 – 40 minutes or until set and lightly browned.  When cool, remove cake from the pan, and cut into 8 – 12 slices. Serve with the Port – Fig Sauce and a dollop of freshly whipped cream.

For the Dried Fig and Port Syrup:

2 cups port or hearty red wine
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups chopped dried Mission figs (or apricots, cherries, cranberries)

•     Place all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn heat to medium and simmer until the mixture is reduced by half. Allow to cool to room temperature.

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Unique Ingredients: Whole Navel Orange, Cooked and Puréed; Polenta and Ground Marcona Almonds


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