Monday, February 12, 2018

Clementine Cake

I love oranges, particularly sweet navals, but so often they have more pith than flesh. What really irritates me is when the orange flesh is dried out. Those babies are expensive, and I hate feeling like I wasted my money. So when those small crates of sweet, easy-to-peel, clementines started appearing in supermarkets, I was happy that I could get my citrus fix consistently and at a somewhat more reasonable price. At least I could back in the 90s and early 00s. Nowadays, the little fruits, while still easy to peel, are often tart and have a few pips. The only routinely sweet ones I've found are the "Cuties" brand, which are more expensive than the rest. I'm guessing that when the demand for these little guys increased, producers started cutting corners or obtaining fruit from countries with less-than-optimal growing conditions or practices. The only consistency now seems to be in my disappointment.

But clementines aren't completely useless. They make a pretty great little cake, one that is super moist, keeps fairly well, and is absolutely gluten-free, though you would never know that from the flavor and texture.

I've made this cake many times over the years, using a recipe from Nigella Lawson's How to Eat. The recipe below has the same proportions as the one in her book, but the photos are from a cake half the size. Why? Because I only had 3 eggs available to me, and the recipe calls for 6. I also was pretty sure that while I seemed to have quite a lot of almond flour, it was surely not 2 1/3 cups. It was entirely reasonable to me to cut the recipe in half, or half-ish. And you know what? Four small clementines, 3 eggs, 1 cup almond flour, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1 heaping teaspoon of baking powder made a fine cake in a 7" round springform pan.

Nigella's Clementine Cake

4 to 5 clementines (about 1 lb total)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 eggs
2 1/3 cups ground almonds
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder

Put clementines in a pot with enough water to cover and bring to a boil. Turn temperature down so the water is at a hearty simmer and cook for 2 hours, adding more water if the pot looks like it's running dry. Drain and allow fruit to cool. Once the fruit is cool, tear them open, remove the stem bit from the end and any seeds.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Place the clementines--skin, pith, and all--into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade. Add the sugar and puree. Add the eggs and pulse to combine. Add the almonds and baking powder and pulse until completely incorporated.

Line an 8-inch springform pan with a circle of parchment and coat bottom and sides of pan with butter or release spray. Pour the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Bake for 40-45 minutes then check doneness with a toothpick. If the pick comes out with moist crumbs, it's done. If it comes out with batter on it, add more time. At this point, the cake will start to get very brown, so cover the top with a piece of foil for any remaining time in the oven.

Remove the pan from the oven and cool completely on a rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or not. I used Trader Joe's dried and sugared lemon slices as a garnish.

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