August 06, 2006
A Little Candied Orange Peel Goes A Long Way
Mom needed another cake to bring to school for someone’s birthday, I was happy to take care of that for her. Searching for a recipe on epicurious.com I came across an orange-almond cake with chocolate icing, giddyup. The recipe seemed straightforward enough, a little time consuming maybe, but that’s clearly not a concern of mine. It was a triple layer cake so I needed 3 round baking pans. I know we have 3 of these pans because I’ve used them before, (recently, for the checkerboard cake) but after a good 10 minutes of tearing the cupboards apart I was starting to be convinced that someone had stolen the third pan. I had found the first two no problem, but the third one was missing. As far as I could recall the three of them used to be buddies, they were always together, like musketeers or something. In the good old days they’d get all battered up, hang out in the oven, then hit the cupboard for an after party… (Some things seem funnier the first time you write them, but I’m still not deleting that.) After going through all the places I thought the third pan could be, and in the process opening all of the cupboard doors, and leaving them open, I sat on the floor in the middle of the kitchen and hoped the pan would come to me. It did not. Instead, the open doors attracted my cat who likes to explore. I got up, shut them and started to get ingredients out to make the cake anyways. I figured if I had to, I would bake the third layer in one of the first two pans after they were done, it would just be an extra and unnecessary step, and I don’t like that. While putting away some dishes to clear space on the counter I found the third pan, I absolutely hate when things aren’t in their place.
After a slow start, I was sailing through making the cake batter; crushing almonds, peeling and juicing oranges, beating eggs, things were going fairly well.
I got through making the batter and putting the layers into the oven, but in the process I ran out of sugar and I still had to make an orange glaze and the chocolate icing. I was also out of butter and eggs. Being out of eggs wasn’t a big deal because I didn’t need any more for this project, but it was something to think about so far as breakfast was concerned. After waiting for the layers to come out of the oven I got in the car and headed to the store. Let me elaborate on this- I live in the country, the grocery store is not right around the corner and I didn’t feel like going all the way into town, so I only went as far as the closest country convenience store. I picked up sugar, eggs and a scratch ticket for Dad, (we didn’t win). I got back into the kitchen, looked at my recipe and decided to make the icing first because it needed to cool. The icing required butter. As I said already, there was no more butter and you will note that on my trip to the store I didn’t get any butter, (I had gotten distracted by the scratch ticket). Annoyed, I got back in the car. As you can imagine, the convenience store I was going to was no Whole Foods. When I got there I found out that they had 1 type of butter, it was overpriced and it was salted. My recipe called for unsalted butter. Does it really matter? Did I really care at this point? The girl at the counter was laughing at me for being back so soon, I took my salted butter and left.
Back at home I was finally able to get on with the cake construction. I made the icing with the salted butter and stuck it in the fridge to set. I thought that because it had lots of tasty things in it like whipping cream and premium chocolate, that it would be fine, you probably wouldn’t even notice the salt. I dipped my finger in to give it a try, it seemed a little off, but I told myself that it just needed to set, it would be ok. While I waited for that to cool I had to make an orange syrup to spread over each layer. The orange syrup was made from fresh squeezed orange juice, reduced with sugar. I ended up with way more than was necessary, but I saved the leftovers because I was also going to be making candied orange peel to decorate the top of the cake and this would add extra flavour. The recipe said to use store bought candied peel, but I didn’t have any of that and there was no way I was going back to the store (not that they’d have it, and we already know how I feel about having to go into town) so I thought I’d just make my own. Well I ended up making enough candied orange peel to feed an army, or if not an army, at least to make 2 other desserts, more on that later. Once the chocolate icing had set a little it still tasted funny, and by funny I mean salty. I added orange syrup and sugar until it worked itself out. In the end the orange-almond chocolate cake dressed up quite nicely once I had all the pieces together and the candied orange peel really was a nice touch.
The leftover orange peel then became the inspiration to make walnut-orange biscotti dipped in chocolate. Biscotti is not something I’ve made before, but Dad likes it so I thought I’d give it a go. It’s actually pretty easy to make and the whole baking it twice thing wasn’t a big deal, (for those of you who don’t know, biscotti is Italian and literally means ‘twice baked’). The only problem I had with it was the chocolate dipping, my chocolate was being weird, (what else is new?) I don’t know why, but at least this stuff wasn’t salty. I ended up leaving some undipped. If anyone asks, I meant to do it that way.
Even after the biscotti there was still more candied orange peel. What to do? There were some strawberries on the counter that needed to be used up, and there’s an endless supply of rhubarb running rampant in the garden. By now you should know where I’m going with this- Pie time. For my own entertainment the rhubarb pies are always a little bit different, this one has the candied orange peel, strawberries and cookie cutter decoration on top, I like personalizing pies. Later today I’ll be delivering this pie to a friend of mine who’s leaving to New Zealand for the year. Maybe I should go with her, the kiwis need pie too, and who am I to deny them? They’ve given us great wine and lamb, it’s about time we started giving back. Think of it as improving international relations. Anyone who would like to finance this trip for me, for the sake of world peace, is welcome to do so.