custom cakes/cookies

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Kumquats, an introduction

At the start of the year, a lot of food blogs began posting recipes and photos of kumquats. Some of the most inspiring came from Cannelle et Vanille. Really?! I thought. Kumquats? I'm originally from Florida and, having spent a good deal of my life in the state, I must admit: I've never had a kumquat. I had no idea what they tasted like. I was actually surprised people ate them because of a misconception I had about what they truly were. You see, the house I grew up in had palm trees in the front yard. These trees were queen palm trees that grew clusters of small orange oval fruits that looked not unlike the kumquat. If left unharvested (as often was the case), the fruits would over ripen on the tree and then drop to the ground to rot giving off a putrid, sweet odor. They were an added nuisance to yard work. If you ran over a pile with the lawn mower, they would sorely pelt your legs. Accidently stepping in a heap was a slippery mess. When I saw kumquats in the grocery store looking very similar to the fruits from our trees, I wondered why on earth someone would pay money to eat them.

I had mentioned that I was ready to try a kumquat, and my friend Elizabeth sweetly gifted me a pint. At first bite, oh how wrong was I! Kumquats are actually quite lovely. Brightly tart. Not overly bitter or sour. I might prefer them with popcorn as a movie treat over a bag of sour patch kids. I began to eat them like candy. The only thing that stopped me from consuming the whole pint fresh out of hand was that I wanted to incorporate some in a few upcoming baking projects. So I candied a portion to be used in a dried fruit and nut tea cake, and I sliced the rest to stir into a batch of marmalade. Thinly sliced discs of kumquats have great visual appeal. They look like tiny wagon wheels. I imagine they'd make a nice addition to a winter salad or atop a hearty braise. Hm, perhaps it's time to purchase another pint.

Candied Kumquats
From The Gourmet Cookbook edited by Ruth Reichl
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
⅛ tsp. salt
2 cups halved kumquats (leaves and seeds discarded)

Bring the water, sugar, and salt to a boil in a saucepan; stir the mixture until the sugar has
dissolved. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 2 minutes. Add halved kumquats and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally for 10 to 12 minutes or until tender. With a slotted spoon, transfer kumquats to a heatproof bowl. Boil syrup for 3 to 7 minutes, until reduced to about ¾ cup. Pour syrup over kumquats and cool completely. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Fruit and Nut Cake
makes 4 small loaves
Adapted from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich

¾ cup all-purpose flour
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¾ cup packed dark brown sugar
3 cups walnut halves
2 cups dates, pitted and quartered
½ cup dried plums, cut into thirds
½ cup dried figs, cut into thirds
½ cup candied kumquats
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Spray loaf pans with oil and line with parchment paper

2. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 300°F

3. In a large bowl, toss together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the brown
sugar, walnuts, and fruits. Use your fingers to mix the fruit, separate any pieces sticking together.

4. Beat the egg and vanilla in a separate small bowl, then mix it with the fruit and nut mixture until everything is coated with the batter. Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf pans, distributing evenly across all pans.

5. Bake for 60-75 minutes until the top of the bars are golden brown and has pulled away just-slightly from the sides of the pan. Cool the bars completely in the pan, then lift out before serving.

6. Use a serrated bread knife to make clean slices through the loaf.

Citrus Melange Marmalade
makes 1½ pints
inspired by design*sponge

Juice and flesh from 2 oranges

10 thinly sliced kumquats (discard ends)

Juice and flesh from 1 large grapefruit

Juice and flesh from 2 Meyer lemons

2¾ cups sugar

½ cup water

Remove rind from all fruit with a vegetable peeler. (Set aside small piece of rind from all fruits to add in later)
 Remove all of the white pith from the fruit. If left on this will make your marmalade very bitter! 
Very thinly slice reserved rind into matchsticks.
 Supreme the oranges, gratefruit and lemons and add all ingredients including juice to a non-reactive saucepan.
 Bring to a boil and simmer until mixture begins to thicken about 45 minutes.
 Once mixture has become thick and reduced, registering 221° F on a candy thermometer, transfer to jars and process in a hot water bath canner.


Miss E said...

The fruitcake was soooo amazing! I had the last piece for breakfast yesterday with coffee. I'm so glad you posted the recipe, as I think I'll have to try it myself!

Olivia said...

I'm glad you liked it! Did Shane get to try it, too?

Miss E said...

Yes, but he was so occupied with his French toast that I think it was lost on him. :)