Orange and Almond Cake

I ran across this lovely recipe a few weeks ago and was very intrigued. I knew right away that I needed to try it soon, and I'm so glad I did. Today I'm sharing an interesting but simple recipe from Claudia Roden, a well loved food writer and cookbook author, especially known for her writings on Middle Easter food. What initially peaked my interest was the fact that this recipe calls for whole oranges, that you boil for several hours, and then puree directly into the rest of the batter, skin, pith, flesh and all! And besides this strange (at least to me) method, the rest of the recipe is simple, with few ingredients. Sugar, eggs, an almonds. That's basically it. 

The finished cake is dense but incredibly moist, full of texture and flavor. The whole orange imparts just a slight bitterness to the cake that is balanced nicely with just the right amount of sugar. The almonds add richness, as do the eggs which also help with the structure a little. The orange flavor is, not surprisingly, very pronounced (with whole oranges and all!). A small slice of this cake for breakfast, or after dinner for dessert, is refreshing and satisfying. Delicious on its own, or my favorite way with a nice spoonful of plain yogurt on the side for a creamy and smooth contrasting element (I decided to try this out on my own and thought it was amazing!). 

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I ended up halving the original recipe, and baking it into a small, 6 inch, cake. Perfect for me and a few friends. Feel free to double the quantities below and bake in a larger pan (I imagine 8 or 9 inches would be good). I highly recommend having some nice and thick plain Greek yogurt (make sure it's plain, the contrast with the sweet cake is ideal) on the side. I'm sure a little whipped cream would also be nice, but just a bit richer/heavier. 

 
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Orange and Almond Cake
Adapted from A New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden
Ingredients

  • 1 large orange
  • 3 eggs
  • 125 grams ground almonds
  • 125 grams sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Directions
Wash and boil the orange (unpeeled) in a little water for 1 1/2 - 2 hours, until very soft. Let cool. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a 6 inch cake pan. 

Cut open the cooled orange and remove the seeds. Place orange in a food processor and process until smooth. Add the sugar and process again until well combined. Then add the eggs and process once more. Finally, add the almonds and baking powder and process until everything just comes together. 

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for about 1 hour. If it is still very wet, leave it in the oven for a little longer. Cool in the pan before turning out.

Lime Cornmeal Cookies

I first made these cornmeal cookies 5 years ago when I was living in Dearborn. So much has happened since that time, but one thing that has not changed is how delicious these cookies are. That first batch was back in the early years of this blog and the photos on that first post were not so hot (if you're interested in taking a look you can see it here). I thoughts it was time to revisit this recipe and give it the photos it deserves. 

It had been a little while since I'd made a batch of these cookies, but I was having some friends over for a Bible study and the food I was making was full of Mexican flavors so I thought these cookies would be the perfect dessert to finish off the night with. They are buttery and tart with a wonderful crunchy texture from the cornmeal. The lime glaze on top really finishes them off nicely. All around a great cookie that's just a little bit different than the usual. Everyone I served them to loved them, so I'm sure anyone you serve them to will love them too! 

I halved the original recipe this time, the full batch makes quite a few cookies and I didn't need that many on this occasion. When shaping them I used my scale and made each cookie 30 grams, this yielded 17 cookies that were the perfect size in my opinion. The recipe calls for 90 grams cookies but that is just massive. I'm sure they'd be awesome, but I didn't feel the need to make mine this big. I ended up chilling the dough overnight before baking which is not called for in the original recipe, but the dough was fairly soft, and I had the time to throw it in the fridge before I needed to bake. The cookies might spread a little more if you don't chill the dough, but I haven't tested this. They did spread a bit regardless of the chilling, so just make sure there is enough space between each ball of dough before putting in the oven. And if you're feeling tempted to skip the lime glaze as I was...don't! It really finishes off the cookies perfectly - the sweet and tart glaze complements the crunchy and buttery cookie and brings them up a notch. Plus, it just looks so cute! 

 
 

Lime Cornmeal Cookies
Adapted from The Sweeter Side of Amy's Bread by Toy Kim Dupree and Amy Scherber

  • 3/4 cup (3 1/2 ounces) all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (3 ounces) coarse cornmeal or fine grits
  • Scant 1/2 cup (2 ounces) bread flour
  • 7/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (4 3/8 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) butter, slightly softened
  • 3/4 ime zest, finely minced
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablesppons lime juice

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a bowl, add the all-purpose flour, cornmeal, bread flour, salt and baking soda and whisk together. Set aside. 

In another bowl, using an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the sugar, butter and lime zest together on medium speed for 2 minutes, or until light and fluffy, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl frequently. Add the egg and egg yolk, mixing until every thing is well combined.

With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the dry ingredients in stages. Mix only until everything is well combined, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl frequently. There should not be any pockets of dry flour left in the dough. At this point, you can refrigerate the dough overnight, or move on immediately to the next step. 

Portion the dough into individual balls, rolling them between your hands to make them uniform. Place them on the cookie sheet with an inch or two between each cookie. They will spread during baking. (The original recipe calls for you to make giant cookies, 90 grams/3.2 ounces of dough each, which is huge and wonderful. However, I made my balls of dough a little more reasonably sized at 30 grams, 1-2 tablespoons, each.) This dough will be soft, so don't flatten the dough balls at all before baking. Bake the cookies for 16-18 minutes, rotating the cookie sheet halfway through the baking time. The cookies should be lightly browned on the edges and baked all the way into the center. They should be soft, but be careful not to underbake them or the centers will collapse and be doughy.

Cool the cookies on the sheets for 5 minutes, then move them to a rack and cool completely before glazing.

Whisk together the confectioner's sugar and the lime juice to make a loose glaze. Use a 2 inch pastry brush to frost the top of each cookie, leaving an unfrosted 1/4 inch border around the edge. Let the glaze dry completely before storing the cookies in an airtight container.

Cranberry Apricot Bran Muffins

I know it's Wednesday and I have yet to post something this week. I try to post a new recipe every Sunday but a lot happened in the last week and over the weekend so I just didn't get around to it! Big news: I've moved! While I've been in med school, I've been living with my parents in the suburbs to help save a lot of money. It's been good, and it was a smart decision, but I reached a point where I felt like it was time for me to move out once and for all. To be honest, I wasn't even looking for an apartment but the perfect place kind of just fell into my lap. In 2 days I'd signed the lease and started moving in. I've been in my new place for only a couple of days now but I am loving it! While all of this has been going on I also started working nights for a couple of weeks so I am really all messed up, but it's okay, especially now that I have my own place to come home to. 

I hope to put up a post soon to show everyone my new place and give more details about how it all happened so fast. Until then however, these muffins will have to do. I love me a good bran muffin, especially one that is heavy and hearty and dense (in a good way). These muffins are just that. They are definitely branny, just how I like it. There is not a lot of sugar in them, so if you have a big sweet tooth you may want to add a bit more for your taste, either that or add in some sweeter fruit. I used cranberries and some frozen apricots that I had, both quite tart and not super sweet. Some nice ripe strawberries or blueberries would probably help up the sweetness if that is what you're looking for. But whatever you decide, these are a great, hearty way to start off any day on the right foot. 

A little butter, a little sugar, a lot of bran and a nice amount of fruit all come together perfectly in these little treats. The original recipe called for oil, but I decided to swap it out for some melted butter. Seemed to work out just fine. Butter just seemed more "right" in these so I just did it. But if you'd rather use oil go for it. This recipe also called for citrus zest, optional but I highly recommend it. I really like citrus zest in my baked goods, especially orange zest, it really adds a wonderful flavor and brightness. I didn't have an orange when I made these so I used some clementine zest instead which worked well. I don't think it has quite the punch as orange zest, but it worked well in a pinch. All in all these are a great way to start off your morning with a little treat that actually feels like breakfast and not dessert.

Cranberry Apricot Bran Muffins

Adapted from 

Smitten Kitchen's

 Blue Sky Bran Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cups (315 ml) buttermilk 
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) lightly packed dark brown sugar
  • Zest of 1 clementine (orange zest would be fine too), optional but highly recommended
  • 1 1/2 cups (90 grams) wheat bran
  • 1 cup (125 grams) whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (8 grams) baking powder 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (8 grams) baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 2-4 teaspoons granulated sugar, divided
  • 3/4 to 1 cup chopped mixed fruit (I used frozen apricots and frozen cranberries)

Directions

Heat oven to 425 degrees F and coat a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick spray.

Whisk buttermilk, egg, melted butter, brown sugar vanilla and clementine zest in a small bowl. Whisk bran, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Mix your fruit with 1 teaspoon sugar. Stir wet mixture into dry until partially mixed, then add in the fruit and continue to mix until just combined and still a bit rough.

Spoon batter into each prepared muffin cup. Sprinkle tops of muffins with remaining sugar to taste. 

Bake muffins for a total of 14 to 16 minutes, rotating pan once midway through baking time for even browning, until a toothpick inserted into the center of muffins comes out with just a few crumbs attached. Do not overbake. Let muffins cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing from tin.

Yields: 10 muffins