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Clementine Almond Cake

  • January 28, 2014

This cake, from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s “Jerusalem” cookbook, is a showstopper, but quite honestly, it looks better than it tastes. I’ve made it a couple of times now and it’s good, don’t get me wrong, but it could benefit from a few changes. 

First of all, that luscious-looking chocolate glaze is not the one that accompanied the Ottolenghi recipe. That one was fine, but a little too thin.
Ever since I discovered David Lebovitz’ easy chocolate sauce, (no cream, no butter) I’ve been sold on that one. The viscosity is just perfect for drizzling on cakes, on ice cream, and whatever else you can dream of. Plus the taste is terrific.
Another thing I’ll change when I make this again is to use almonds without “skins.” Sorry I don’t have an interior shot for you, but the color comes out a little too tan when I used almonds that had skins on them. The texture was a little coarse too. I might even try using almond flour instead of grinding the almonds myself, to perhaps obtain a softer crumb.
Lastly, next time I make this (and there will be a next time), I’ll add more peel and juice from the clementines. The cake needs a little more citrus flavor to give it more “zing.”
Even so, there were no complaints when I served this at a recent dinner. Maybe the guests were just being polite, but I don’t think so. Only a small sliver was left by the end of the night. Could you resist sinking a fork into this?


Clementine & Almond Syrup Cake with Chocolate Icing
Adapted from Jerusalem
by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi
Serves 8 to 10
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter
scant 2 cups sugar
grated zest and juice of 4 clementines (I would add juice and zest from at least five or six clementines)
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
5 eggs, beaten
 2-1/2 cups ground almonds (preferably without skins)
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, sifted
pinch of salt
long strips of orange zest to garnish (optional)
Chocolate Icing: (I prefer the chocolate sauce recipe below from David Lebovitz)
6 tablespoons butter, diced
5 ounces good-quality dark chocolate, broken up
2-1/2 teaspoons honey
1-1/2 teaspoon Cognac
Preheat the oven to 350F.  Lightly grease a 9-1/2 inch springform pan with butter and line the sides and bottom with parchment paper.
Place the butter, 1-1/2 cups of the sugar, and both zests in a stand mixer fitted with the beater attachment and beat on low speed to combine everything well.  Do not work the mixture too much or incorporate too much air.  Add half the ground almonds and continue mixing until combined.
With the machine running, gradually add the eggs, stopping to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl a couple of times as you go.  Add the remaining ground almonds, the flour, and the salt and beat until completely smooth.
Pour the cake batter into the pan and level it with an offset spatula.
Bake the cake for 50 to 60 minutes.  Check to see if it is ready by inserting a skewer into the center.  It should come out a little bit moist.
When the cake is almost done, place the remaining 1/3 cup sugar and the citrus juices in a small saucepan and bring to a boil (the juices should total about 1/2 cup; remove some juice if needed).  When the syrup boils, remove it from the heat.
As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, brush it with the boiling syrup, making sure all the syrup soaks in.  Leave the cake to cool down completely in the pan before you remove it.  You can then serve it as it is, garnished with orange zest strips, or store it for up to 3 days in an airtight container.
If you wish to ice the cake, we recommend doing it on the day you want to serve it so the icing is fresh and shiny.  Put the butter, chocolate, and honey in a heatproof bowl and place over a saucepan of simmering water (make sure the bowl does not touch the water).  Stir until everything is melted, then immediately remove from the heat and fold in the Cognac.  Pour the icing over the cooled cake, allowing it to dribble naturally down the sides without covering the cake completely.  Let the icing set and then garnish the center of the cake with the orange zest strips.
David Lebovitz’ chocolate sauce
(Note – you’ll have more than you need to decorate the cake, so store remainder in the fridge.)
The Best Chocolate Sauce
About 2 1/2 cups
  • 1 cup (250 ml) water
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (160 g) light corn syrup, agave nectar, or glucose
  • 3/4 cup (75 g) unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-processed)
  • 2 ounces (55 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the water, sugar, corn syrup (or agave or glucose), and cocoa powder.
2. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Once it’s just begun to simmer and boil, remove from heat and stir in the chopped chocolate until melted.
Serving: You should let the Chocolate Sauce stand for a few hours before serving, which will give it time to thicken a bit.
Storage: Store the chocolate sauce in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. Rewarm before serving.


Fig Port-Wine Pistachio Ice Cream

  • October 14, 2013
OK, enough with the figs, you might be saying. The season is over. Well, that’s mostly true, but the way my brain is working these days, if I say to myself I’ll save this fig post for next year, I’m likely to forget, or to find it impossible to locate these photos among the thousands that are buried in my computer never, neverland. So here you have it – another fig recipe. Tuck it away for next season if figs have disappeared from your markets or if your tree is finished producing for the year.
If you’ve got purple figs, the ice cream will take on a beautiful dark pink hue. But I used up the last of my purple figs in a lemony- fig olive oil cake (click here for recipe). When some friends invited me to pick some figs from their tree, which happens to produce green figs, I wasn’t about to complain. Especially not when they were as juicy and flavorful as these.
 The recipe is adapted from one in David Lebovitz’ book, “The Perfect Scoop.” I changed it to add port wine instead of water, and threw in some pistachios too. The wine adds flavor and helps to keep it from hardening to a rock solid mass. Feel free to use another type of alcohol if you prefer – rum, grand marnier or whatever you fancy. Place the mixture in an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
 Sprinkle with a few more pistachios on top and dig in.

Fig-Port Wine-Pistachio Ice Cream
adapted from David Lebovitz’ “The Perfect Scoop”
printable recipe here

2 lbs. fresh figs (about 20)
1/2 cup port wine, plus 3 Tablespoons
1 lemon, preferably unsprayed
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped pistachios

Remove the hard stem ends from the figs, then cut each fig into 8 pieces. Put the figs in a medium, non-reactive saucepan with 1/2 cup port wine, and zest the lemon directly into the saucepan. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 8-10 minutes until the figs are tender. Remove the lid, add the sugar and continue to cook until it reaches a jam-like consistency. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.  Blend together with cream, lemon juice, and pistachios, and 3 more T. of port wine. Chill in the fridge and then put in your ice cream maker per the manufacturer’s instructions.

Apple Tart, Miracle Crust and Mother Nature too

  • October 25, 2011
 OK, so it’s just another apple tart, you’re thinking. Well think again, because this tart dough is nothing short of miraculous. It’s made in a jiffy using melted butter – you read that right – no blending rock hard butter, ice water, flour and sugar together as all traditional doughs call for. This tart dough not only is a snap to make, it tastes buttery, flaky and even held up two days later without getting soggy. I owe this marvel to David Lebovitz, who wrote about it on his blog here. I changed the recipe slightly to allow for a larger tart shell, and I melted the butter on top of the stove, rather than in the oven. I may never use another tart recipe again. It’s that good and that easy.
Serve it with ice cream for a real treat. Eat it overlooking these almost primordial waterfalls in the Catskills as I did and you’ll think you’re dreaming. This is the phenomenal view I had for three days last week, when my kids and I gathered to commemorate a very special day.


It was hard to tear ourselves away from the view, enjoyed before dinner on our first evening there with a couple of bottles of wine, some guacamole and salsa.
We had gorgeous views from all our hikes too, including this one at the top of the mountain, overlooking the Hudson Valley.
We had fun exploring other towns nearby, including Woodstock and Saugerties.
And there were plenty of other waterfalls to discover on our hikes too, including Kaaterskill Falls, the longest one in the Catskills.

Not to mention brilliant fall foliage.
And wonderful food too, including this duck confit at Tamayo’s in the town of Saugerties. Thanks kids.
I can’t leave out these luscious macarons that my daughter brought to the feast from the new Laduree store in Manhattan. Merci beaucoup.
In the end, the waterfalls outside our door – Niobe Falls – kept luring us back like Ulysses to the sirens. We were just mesmerized all weekend by their beauty and proximity. It was like having a natural sound machine to lull you.
As hard as it was to leave the waterfall house and the wonderful hospitality of its owners, we softened the blow on the way home by stopping at our favorite New York State winery – Prospero Winery. We squeezed some space out of an already crammed car for some wine and prosecco to take home.
Back home – via Manhattan and Jersey City to drop off the kids at their own places – after a memorable weekend. Time to finish off that last slice of apple tart.

Tart Dough Recipe
fits a large tart pan, about 10 1/2 inches in diameter

Printable recipe here

5 ounces unsalted butter, cut into pieces
5 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour

Melt butter in a saucepan until bubbly. Add all the rest of the ingredients with a wooden spoon until it forms a ball and comes away from the side of the pan. Add more flour if necessary. Pat into a tart pan and fill with apples or other fruit.
4 or 5 sliced apples,  depending of size – I used Granny Smith
sprinkling of sugar and cinnamon on top
2 T. butter
apricot preserves
Layer apple slices over uncooked dough in tart pan. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and dab with bits of butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on thickness of slices. Remove from oven  and heat apricot preserves until warm enough to spread. Brush a thin layer over the apples.