This past weekend, Roger and Judy, who visit us every year and are so much fun to talk to, asked for the recipe for the pumpkin and apricot cake that I served for tea. The last time they followed one of my recipes (for banana chocolate cake) the chocolate exploded as it was poured into a bowl. Undeterred, they are willing to follow another recipe, no matter what the danger.
PUMPKIN APRICOT CAKE
3 1/2 c. unbleached flour 1/4 tsp. baking powder 2 tsp. baking soda 1 1/2 tsp. salt 1 tsp. each nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon 1 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
½ c. white sugar 1 c. oil 2 c. canned pumpkin 4 eggs 1 c. dried apricots, cut into small slices
1 c. simple syrup made of 1 c. water boiled with 1 c. sugar
Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. Add the sugars, mixing well.
Mix dry ingredients with the oil and pumpkin, stirring until well combined.
Add eggs, one at a time, blending thoroughly. Pour into 2 greased and floured decorative bundt pans. I use a silicone fluted bundt ban and a variety of Teflon coated bundt pans.
Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes or until cake springs back when prodded with a finger. Cool in pans. Dribble ½ c. simple syrup over each cake. Remove from pans. Place on wire rack to cool.
We just had our third annual Spring Chocolate Championship yesterday and, once again, I didn’t win. You may remember that Chocolate Championship was my suggestion several years ago for MAC to start a new tour during Spring Festival. Any tour is improved by adding chocolate. Last year I made Julia Childs’ chocolate mousse, which is the best chocolate mousse ever, and yet I didn’t win. I consider it an insult to Julia Childs’ memory . (Maybe we can get Meryl Streep to protest.) This year, Anna Marie McMain won with with her Chocolate Delight. It must have been spectacular, ’cause my truffles were pretty darn good. Richard Degner wrote a very nice article in the Atlantic City Press about the contest and Leith Hall. You can have chocolate treats every day at teatime, if you make a reservation.
ROMANTIC GETAWAY TRUFFLES
I started making these chocolate truffles to include in our Romantic Getaway package. The basic recipe is incredibly easy, and depends on really good ingredients. The different flavors are created with extracts.
32 oz. (1 quart) heavy whipping cream
32 oz. by weight of bittersweet chocolate
1 Tbs. organic extract.
Melt the chocolate in the cream. Use 60% to 72% chocolate. Use a very good brand because the quality of the truffles is entirely dependent upon the quality of the chocolate. I use Valrhona, Valor, Green and Black, Guittard or Ghirardelli. Don’t use Hershey’s or Nestlé’s. You can microwave it for one minute at a time, stirring with a rubber spatula between minutes. Or you can melt the chocolate in an uncovered metal bowl over simmering water. Or you can melt it in a 200 degree Fahrenheit oven. It doesn’t matter. The important thing is not to overheat the mixture and to stir often.
Stir in the extract. I always use organic extract from the health food store. It really does taste better. You can use orange extract, peppermint extract, coconut extract, almond extract, or any other that you like. You can also double or triple the amount of extract.
Cool the melted chocolate mixture (ganache) in the refrigerator until it thickens. Whip it in a stand mixer. It will double in size and fluff in a few minutes. Scoop the ganache into little balls with a little scoop. Put the balls onto a cookie sheet and refrigerate. Decorate the truffles by tossing in toasted coconut for coconut flavor, or toasted almond slivers for almond. You can toss any flavor in a mixture of cocoa and powdered sugar.
These cookies look like the sand on the beach in Cape May. The sprinkle of sugar on top even gives them the texture of the sand on the beach in Cape May. The best things about them are that they are stunningly easy to make and the richest cookies you’ll ever eat. I usually make this recipe in a parchment lined 9”x13” pan and cut them into bars for serving at afternoon tea. You could halve the recipe and make them in an 8”x8” or 9”x9” parchment lined pan. Or you can roll he dough out (thick) and make cookie cutter cookies.
If you prefer, you can substitute lemon extract for the orange, or use vanilla extract for plain shortbread or even coconut extract. I use organic extracts from the health food store because they really do taste better.
1 ½ lbs. unsalted butter (3 sticks) melted
2 cups sugar
1 tbs. orange extract
7 cups white unbleached flour
½ tsp. salt
Turbinado or white sugar for sprinkling
Mix flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Mix melted butter and orange extract. Mix flour mixture and butter together with a pastry blender, a rubber spatula, or a whisk. The idea is to cut the butter and flour together into crumbles, not to press them together into a dough. Dump the mixed crumbles into the lined baking dish. Press into an even layer with your finger-tips. Dock the dough by piercing it all over with the tines of a fork. Sprinkle with sugar.
Bake at 350F/degrees for about 20 minutes. The cookies are done when they are very light gold around the edges. Remove from oven and cut into bars or squares with a sharp knife immediately. Allow to cool in the pan completely before turning out.
I often serve these for tea at Leith Hall b&b. The other treat will always be something chocolate. If my other cake isn’t chocolate, I’ll dip the end of each shortbread bar in melted bittersweet chocolate. During the Summer when we’re sitting on the porch under the awnings, I know that Suzie will stage a insurrection if there’s no chocolate at teatime.