Ingredients for the fruit and nuts
- 3/4 cup (3.5 ounces) dried white figs
- 3/4 cup (4.5 ounces) golden raisins
- 1/2 cup (2.25 ounces) dried pears, julienned
- 1/2 cup (1.25 ounces) dried apples, julienned
- 1/2 cup (2.5 ounces) dried apricots, julienned
- 2 cups (9 ounces) blanched whole almonds
- 1/2 cup (4 ounces) brandy
Ingredients for the cake:
- 3/4 cup (3.75 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 5 tablespoons (2.5 ounces) butter, softened
- 1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) sugar
- 1 cup (8.25 ounces) Almond Paste, made with blanched almond flour
- 3 large eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
Ingredients for almond paste:
- Makes about 3 cups
- 4 cups (14 ounces) raw almond flour, toasted
- 1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 to 6 tablespoons water
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:
- Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl then set aside
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl, using a handheld mixer), cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the almond paste, mixing until thoroughly combined. Increase the speed to medium and add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla paste and mix for 30 seconds. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, then add the dry ingredients, beating just until the batter is smooth. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand.
- Pour the macerated fruits and nuts, with their liquid, into the bowl and mix with a rubber spatula until evenly distributed. Set the bowl aside for 30 minutes. (This resting time allows the batter to absorb the brandy.)
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 300°F. Generously coat the bottom and sides of a 9 1/2-by-5 1/2-inch loaf pan with nonstick baking spray.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 30 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake for an additional 40 to 45 minutes, until the top of the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Put the loaf pan on a cooling rack and let the cake cool for 1 hour.
- Remove the cake from the pan and cool completely on the rack, about 2 hours.
- The cake can be stored, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap or parchment, at room temperature for up to 6 weeks.
Directions for almond paste:
- Pour the toasted almond flour, sugar, and salt into the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times until combined. Continue pulsing as you add water 1 tablespoon at a time until the paste comes together into a ball.
- Remove the almond paste from the processor, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.
- Variation: Blanched almond paste: Replace the toasted almond flour with regular almond flour.
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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