If you are looking for an alternative to cookies for holiday gifts, try this cake or the noir version. A sturdy cake like fruitcake is perfect for shipping across country, without any fear of breakage in transit. I also like to cut a couple of loaves into 2-inch slices, wrap them in parchment, and tie them with ribbon for small hostess gifts—it’s very useful to have a few of these cakes on hand during the holidays. Note that the dried fruits and nuts must macerate overnight.
To prepare the fruit and nuts:
Combine the dried fruits, almonds, and brandy in a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and macerate for 24 to 48 hours at room temperature, stirring occasionally.
Directions for cake:
Directions for almond paste:
You will see nut flours in a variety of recipes in this book. Nut flour can be made easily by blitzing nuts in a food processor or coffee grinder for 2 to 3 minutes. Once the nuts are transformed into flour, stop pulsing. If you continue to grind them, they will turn into nut butter. Store nut flours in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer for 3 to 4 months. Blanched nut flour is made from blanched (skinned) nuts. For standard nut flours, or anything listed as raw nut flour, I tested the recipes using nuts with the skins intact. Toasted nut flour is made from nut flour that is toasted in the oven until it turns golden and smells toasty. Do not try to make toasted nut flour using roasted nuts; that will result in a mealy, oily nut mass. To make toasted nut flour, spread raw nut flour on a baking sheet and toast in a 350°F oven for 6 to 8 minutes, until the flour turns dark golden and smells roasted.
Nut flours are very popular today for use in gluten-free recipes. For the recipes in this book, nut flours are used specifically to create a forward, nutty flavor.
For more information on Valerie and Valerie confections go to: valerieconfections.com
All recipes and instructions below from Valerie's cookbook, "Sweet" — a James Beard foundation award finalist (Artisan books, copyright © 2013)—which is available on amazon.com and at bookstores nationwide.
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