Thursday, April 26, 2012
My son Nathan has a pal named Gabe, who was at our house one afternoon this week after school. The two of them were in the kitchen foraging for snacks when Gabe spotted a small container of what looked to be Barbie-doll sized oranges on the kitchen counter. According to Nathan, who was the only witness to his comment, Gabe said in mock amazement, "No. Nooo. You mean kumquats really exist??"
Yes, Gabe, they really do. And though you might not want to just pop one in your mouth and chomp down on it unless you're seriously into puckering, they are awfully good after being sliced, seeded, and undergoing a leisurely simmer in sugar water. Plus, they're so darn cute. A petite box of kumquats is about as appealing as a basket of warm kittens. You just can't resist picking one up and gently examining it. You won't want to put it down, and you'll definitely feel compelled to show it to someone else. Yes, a kumquat is its own little conversation piece.
A relatively scarce fruit around here, as far as common usage goes, I have to admit I've never before used a recipe that featured them, and never even particularly bothered to find out what the heck to do with them until now. But, I think it's safe to say I'm a newly minted member of the tiny fruit's fan club.
About this recipe . . .
Adapted from a gluten-free formula found on Tartelette--without question one of the loveliest food blogs around--I made a few minor changes. Note, though, that my version is not gluten-free. (As my favorite cake-decorating teacher, Chef Lois, recently remarked, "I'm all about gluten." Quite obviously, I share that sentiment.)
Tartelette's recipe called for millet flour and almond flour. Mine, instead, uses a combo of all-purpose flour, a bit of spelt flour, and almond flour. Tartelette baked her cakes in financier pans, a muffin-type pan with rectangular cavities shaped like gold ingots (thus the moneyed name). I have no financier pans, so I baked mine in twelve small brioche tins.
These little cakes are moist, just sweet enough, and the flavor of the kumquats is definitely present without being overwhelming. My husband, who I thought might show lukewarm interest, gave these two enthusiastic thumbs up.
Tangy Kumquat Tea Cakes
(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and lightly flour (or use baking spray on) twelve small brioche, financier, or muffin tins.
Ingredients for batter:
1/4 cup all-purpose flour, unbleached
1/4 cup spelt flour (if you don't have spelt, just use all-purpose)
1 cup almond flour (aka almond meal/finely ground blanched almonds)
1 pinch of kosher salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 and 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar (not necessary to sift, but I'd whisk/pinch out any big lumps)
4 large eggs
1/3 to 1/2 cup kumquat compote (recipe below)
About 2 Tbsp. sanding sugar or granulated sugar, if you prefer, to sprinkle atop the unbaked cakes
Ingredients for kumquat compote:
1 cup of clean, ripe kumquats, seeded and sliced
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
To make the compote:
Heat the sliced, seeded kumquats slowly in a medium sauce-pan with the sugar and water over medium heat, stirring periodically, until the mixture just comes to a boil and the sugar is dissolved. Lower the heat and simmer until the kumquats appear translucent (you'll know it when you see it); this might take 15 minutes or so.
Put all of the kumquats into a small bowl with only about 1/4 cup of the sugar syrup (the rest of the syrup can be discarded or saved in the fridge to use for another project). Refrigerate until cool, then puree by pulsing in the small bowl of your food processor. The puree will still contain visible pieces of peel and that's what you want, sort of like marmalade. Set this aside as you begin to prepare the batter.
To make the batter:
In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, spelt flour, almond flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.
In the large bowl of your mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter and confectioners' sugar on medium speed for a few minutes (start on low for several seconds so the sugar doesn't fly all over), until just fluffy. Pour the eggs in one at a time, mixing thoroughly for a minute or so after each addition and stopping to scrape as needed.
On low speed, add in the flours and mix only until combined--about 30 seconds or so.
Take the bowl off the mixer and use a spatula to fold in three quarters of the kumquat compote; reserve one quarter of the compote.
Portion the batter evenly into your prepared tins and dab a bit of the reserved compote on top of each one. If you like, sprinkle a generous pinch of sanding sugar or granulated sugar over that.
Bake the cakes for about 15 minutes, or until they're lightly golden and the sides have begun to pull away from the tins. Let them cool a few minutes in their tins before removing them from the pans to a cooling rack.
Sprinkle the cakes lightly with confectioners' sugar when cool. Best if eaten the first two days.
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