Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Roasted Apricot Almond Cake

This is the height of apricot season, folks. I bought a small flat of them at Costco last week, and I mean to tell you, they are perfect. I let them sit out on the kitchen counter for 3 days and they reached the peak of ripeness. Half I used in the above cake, and the other half are in the refrigerator and I may try apricot ice cream. In any case, I'll cook those remaining apricots today or tomorrow before they're over the hill. As you probably know, apricots have a short time of perfection. Too green and they have no taste. Too ripe and they're mushy and they go downhill in rapid order from there. So, remember this recipe, either right NOW, or wait until next year.

Another cooking instructor who has provided me with any number of favorite recipes is Tarla Fallgatter. Here's a blurb I found about her on the internet:

Tarla Fallgatter is a well-known Orange County caterer, chef, teacher, restaurant consultant and kitchen tool manufacturer. She trained at Paris' Cordon Bleu, La Varenne, and Ecole Lenotre cooking schools, and was the first foreign woman to cook in the kitchens of Maxim's. She has traveled to over 60 countries throughout the world, "sampling" the local cuisine. She markets her "Tarla" all-copper rolling pin in fine cookware shops.
Tarla currently teaches at the Irvine Fine Arts Center (fairly elementary classes), at A Store for Cooks, and she also teaches a private group of wives who live in Coto de Caza (a very upscale, gated neighborhood in south Orange County). My friend Cherrie was invited to attend one of those classes about 5 years ago through a friend of hers, and as a substitute, I'm invited too. I can choose to attend or not. This recipe came from one of the Tarla classes I attended.

So, I have a funny story to tell about almond paste. When I went to make this the other day, I knew I had some almond paste. I found 3 boxes. How about that. All imported from Denmark. All hard as rocks. (Now you also need to know that at the class about this cake, Tarla told all of us that we couldn't substitute marzipan for almond paste - okay - got that - and she told us that almond paste doesn't store well. It's not that it spoils. It gets hard, and there's no recovering it once it gets that way.)

Okay, so I have these 3 boxes in my pantry. No dates on any of them. Guess what? All hard. Uhm. What do I do. I really didn't want to make another trip to the store, so I thought - maybe I can recover the almond paste. I'll put it in the microwave with a bowl of hot water and let it steam a bit. Surely that would help, right? Wrong. Five minutes later all I got was hot, hard almond paste. My dear hubby saved the day - he said he'd go to the market for me. Here's what almond paste looks like.
Ideally you bake the cake and the apricots at the same time (saves energy, obviously). So I got the apricots all ready to roast, then I went to work on the cake. Cautions about the cake:

1. make sure you use an 8-inch cake pan, not 9-inch (cake will be too shallow).
2. make certain you finely chop or tear off almond paste pieces - you don't want little nuggets of almond paste in the cake.
3. don't forget the parchment paper step in the cake pan - it needs it - even in a nonstick pan.
The apricots are easy to make and the sauce is delish. The cake is extremely moist and the almond flavor is not subtle - it's right there - but that is what makes the cake so good. Try it.

Almond Cake with Roasted Apricots
Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter
Servings: 8

4 ounces unsalted butter -- room temperature
Additional butter to grease pan
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup almond paste -- broken in small pieces
1 tablespoon orange zest
3 large eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup creme fraiche -- plus sugar to taste
3 teaspoons powdered sugar
8 sprigs mint leaves
1 cup almonds -- use sliced almonds, toast half of them
10 whole apricots -- firm, ripe, halved, pitted
1 whole vanilla bean -- split lengthwise, seeds scraped
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup Amaretto -- or apricot brandy

APRICOTS: Place apricot halves in a large baking dish and gently toss with vanilla bean and the seeds, with the honey. Pour 1/4 cup water over and the Amaretto and toss again. Bake along with the cake, until the apricots are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, 15-20 minutes. The timing will depend on the ripeness of the fruit.
ALMOND CAKE: Preheat oven to 325°. Butter an 8-inch round cake pan (do not use a 9-inch pan as it will be too flat). Line with parchment paper and additional butter on the parchment paper.
Cream butter and sugar in food processor until fluffly. Add almond paste and beat until smooth and fluffy. Add the orange zest and eggs, one at a time. Beat until well blended. Mix flour, baking powder and salt together and pulse in. Scrape mixture into the prepared pan, smooth top and sprinkle 1/2 cup untoasted sliced almonds on top. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 30 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and pulling away from the pan. Remove and set on a rack to cool.
In a small bowl combine the creme fraiche and a little bit of sugar. Invert the cake onto a cake plate and peel off parchment paper. Turn the cake back over again so the almonds are on the top. Lightly dust with sifted powdered sugar. Cut the cake into 8 pieces and put on plates. Top each slice with the roasted apricots, a dollop of creme fraiche, then sprinkle the top with the additional sliced almonds, and decorate with mint sprigs.
Serving Ideas : Instead of creme fraiche, you could also use lightly sweetened whipped cream.
NOTES : You need to use fresh apricots for this. Choose firm ones, but still ripe. And don't overbake them.
Per Serving: 561 Calories; 35g Fat (55.8% calories from fat); 10g Protein; 53g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 137mg Cholesterol; 128mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 1/2 Fruit; 0 Non-Fat Milk; 6 1/2 Fat; 2 Other Carbohydrates.
To view a printable recipe, click the title at the top.

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