Sweetness to Guide the Lengthening Days

I know for sure that the season has changed when the spring sun hits my kitchen window for the first time in a year and the returning ospreys settle on their nest. The golden light streaming in and the joyous sounds of birdsong signal that the farm fields are also waking up, and over the coming months we will see a progression of wonderful produce. Yet, despite the excitement of the emerging season, it will be a while before the time of abundance. With the first local strawberries not arriving until early June, peak season citrus is my pick for a celebratory spring dessert. Mineola tangerines, bursting with juice, are plentiful in the supermarkets and their deep orange skin adds rich flavor to a simple moist cake. Enjoy a slice dusted simply with confectioners’ sugar or elevate it to luxury status with silky crème anglaise. 


Tangerine Almond Cake

The recipe will come together very quickly if you carefully prep the cake pan and have the ingredients measured in advance. Butter and eggs should be at room temperature, and have the oven preheating to 350 degrees before you start. I use Kerrygold grassfed salted butter for flavor and creaminess. If you use unsalted butter, add ½ tsp. salt to the flour mixture. You will use the grated zest and 4 tablespoons of tangerine juice in the batter. Prepare the cake in a large bowl, using an electric hand or stand mixer. Be sure to bake it at least a day in advance of serving. Two days is even better! Cover tightly with plastic wrap and store in a cool place. Do not refrigerate.

Ingredients

1 large Mineola Tangerine washed and dried thoroughly
1 ½ cups butter softened, extra for greasing the pan
1 ½ cups sugar
5 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 Tbsp. extra for dusting the pan
2 tsp. baking powder
3 Tbsp. almond flour

Method

Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform cake pan. Hold the pan over the sink and coat with a thin layer of flour, shaking out the excess. Place a circle of baking parchment in the bottom of the pan. Using a micro plane grater, zest the tangerine and set aside, before halving and extracting the juice (you will use 4 Tbsp. for the recipe). Mix the flour and baking powder in a bowl and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the softened butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat at medium speed until light and creamy. Gradually whisk in the beaten egg, mixing well between each addition. Fold in the zest and a little flour, before adding 4 tablespoons of the tangerine juice, together with a tablespoon of flour. The addition of flour with the juice and zest should help to stop the mixture from splitting. If it does, do not worry, the cake will be fine. 

Gradually add the flour and baking powder mixture on low speed until everything is thoroughly mixed. Smooth the top with a spatula and place the cake on the middle shelf of a 350-degree oven. Bake for about 45 to 50 minutes, checking after about 40 minutes to make sure it is not browning too much on the top, (cover with a sheet of foil if it is). The cake is done when the top springs back if  you lightly touch it. You can also test by inserting a metal skewer, which should come out clean. Remove the cake to a mesh rack and leave in the pan for 20 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and cool for a further hour. When it is completely cold, cover with plastic wrap and store for at least a day before serving.


Tangerine Crème Anglaise

This recipe seems more daunting than it really is. Carefully follow the recipe and you will end up with a silky-smooth custard that is a creamy delight. The mixture should never boil, or the eggs will curdle. Have an ice bath ready to cool the custard quickly before refrigerating. Once you have mastered this skill, you can experiment with different flavors and even use it as a base for delicious homemade ice cream.

You will only use the peel of the tangerine for this recipe. If you want to make a plain vanilla custard, you can skip the step where you infuse the cream and milk with the tangerine peel and add a dash of vanilla paste or extract.  The addition of orange liqueur is optional.

Ingredients

1 Mineola Tangerine, washed and dried
1 1/3 cups organic heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
½ cup plus 1 Tbsp. sugar
6 organic egg yolks
Pinch of fine sea salt
1 tsp. orange liqueur, such as Cointreau or Grand Marnier (optional)

Method

Make a cold bath for the cooked custard by filling a large bowl with ice and a little cold water. Set it aside. Using a sharp paring knife or potato peeler, remove the orange part of the skin in thin strips, avoiding the white pith. Whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl.

Mix 1 cup cream, the milk, sugar, and orange peel strips in a small heavy saucepan. Warm the mixture until the sugar dissolves and set aside. Allow the mixture to infuse the flavors of the tangerine peel in the pan for 30 minutes. Discard the peel, pressing it to extract all of the oils, and reheat the cream, being careful not to boil it. Add half of the warmed cream mixture to the bowl with the eggs and whisk together, before adding back to the pan with the rest. This is called tempering and helps to prevent curdling. 

Stir the mixture continuously over low heat for about 4 to 5 minutes, until it starts to thicken. The mixture should coat the back of the spoon and when you draw a knife across it will leave a clear trail. If you are using a confectionery thermometer, the temperature should be around 170 degrees, but not more than 180 degrees. Once your custard has started to thicken, remove from the heat and stir in a pinch of fine sea salt. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a clean bowl. Immediately set the bowl of custard in the ice bath and stir from time to time until chilled. Cover and place in the refrigerator.

When the custard has chilled completely, whisk the remaining 1/3 cup cream until slightly thickened and fold into the custard. Cover and chill overnight for at least 12 hours.

To Serve

Place the cake on a serving plate or cake stand and dust generously with confectioner’s sugar. Serve with a dollop of custard or some whipped cream flavored with a little Cointreau and sugar.

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