November 16, 2004

fruity wine, winy fruits

Monday, November 15

It has been almost a couple of months since the 8th IMBB, and other than Renee's boozy potatoes which I have already tried, and other than there was another such boozy goodie that grabbed my heart: Derrick 's Olive Oil and Sweet Wine Cake.

The pairing of olive oil with dessert wine was very intriguing to me, even though the concept of using olive oil and wine itself in cake wasn't totally new to me as I had used olive oil in cakes more than once, and had even been planning to make red wine and olive oil cake for quite some time. I don't normally care for dessert wine so much and would not buy a bottle for myself, but since I had another recipe for cake using dessert wine (but not olive oil), I decided to make an investment in a bottle of nice Muscat.

There was another reason that I bought a 500ml bottle of dessert wine, by the way. I had been drawn to one recipe called fruits secs et confitis au muscat, or dried and candied fruits in Muscat wine, in Trish Deseine's book Mes petits plats preferes (2002, Marabout). I have used several different liquors and spirits for soaking dried fruits to be used in fruit cake, but again, not a dessert wine yet. Sweet dried fruits soaked in sweet dessert wine sounded like a really sweet idea.

At first I didn't think much about possible uses of fruits in wine, but it eventually occurred to me that if I'd use the sweet wine for cake and fruits, I might well put them together, hence making fruit cake with Muscat.

So I got a bottle of wine -

- and a little bit of many different fruits and nuts.

For the fruits, I used candied bitter orange peels, green raisins, and dried apricots, figs (black and white), and peach. Black figs and peach were "semi-dried" which means the products had a higher content of reserved moisture that makes the fruits softer and juicier than regular dried fruits.

For the nuts, I had hazelnuts, cashews, almonds, walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, and pistachios.

I was going to make a small amount of this, but somehow I almost filled up a one-quart jar. Almost.

Fast forward one week and the fruits and nuts soaked up a lot of Muscat while their flavors steeped in the wine, making the whole jar looking somewhat dull but smelling sweet.

Then I made the cake. The recipe is from Regan Daley's In The Sweet Kitchen: The Definitive Baker's Companion (2001, Artisan) which I had bought a copy after several days' thinking, reading readers' reviews available online. I am glad I did, so far I have only flipped through the recipe pages and the renowned flavor pairing chart, but I already have quite a few recipes that I know I am trying sometime soon.

Back to the olive oil and sweet wine cake, it was a bit like chiffon cake in a way that it uses a lot of eggs with whites whipped, oil instead of butter, a rather small amount of flour, and some added liquid (in this case, wine), although the amount of oil was hefty. I didn't quite notice the possibility until this point that this light, airy cake batter would not hold wine-soaked fruits and nuts very well. Well it was too late, I had already chopped up a handful of the fruits and nuts, so I went ahead.

I baked the cake in several small pans and they rose pretty high thanks to the lots of meringue folded in the batter, then shrunk. Even so, when I had a slice of them when they were barely cool, it was incredibly light and giving off unmistakable aroma of Muscat.

Following day, we had some slices with a glass of Muscat. Having sat overnight, the cakes had come to feel slightly moister and denser, yet still very light nevertheless. While not as fragrant as they had been the day before right after cooked, the cakes were now more full-flavored and had a richer taste, and it was amazing to see how the accompanying glass of wine enhanced the whole flavor of cake... it almost seemed unthinkable to have a slice of this cake without the wine, really. It was that good. And it was a nice deviation from regular fruit cake.


By the way, I have baked the olive oil and red wine cake I had planned to make. I used the recipe from Moosewood Restaurant Celebrates: Festive Meals for Holidays and Special Occasions (Clarkson Potter, 2003), called Winemaker's Grape Cake. The concept was to bring together the tastes of harvests, namely, wine, olive oil, and grapes. Red wine and olive oil in the cake (not in pasta sauce) seemed to me a bit unusual to me, so did the use of fresh grapes in the cake.

The amount of red wine the recipe called for seemed rather too small (!) to me, so I used more wine - about three times as much - by boiling it down to the same volume as indicated in the recipe. It seemed to have worked fine, since the cake definitely took on the flavor as well as the color of red wine. Well, that was what I thought, but he claimed that it didn't taste like wine at all, it tasted more of citrus, which was true to a certain extent as I might have put zest and juice of lemon a bit too much. We agreed that it tasted good though, even though it wasn't an exclusively harvest-time cake, to be precise, as nowadays wine, olive oil, and grapes are available all year round, for the better or for the worse.


Fae said...

The addition of the soaked fruits and nuts sounds wonderful, but then, I do love a good Muscat! I'll definitely have to give that a whirl around the holidays.

Reid said...

Hi Chika,

Nice combination of nuts and fruits. This must have been really good...I would probably enjoy this with a nice cup of Kona coffee.

Estelle said...

Hi Chika, the olive oil cake looks really moist and good, you made me very curious about it... Oh, and I saw my favorite fork again!!

Scott said...


I never knew you were such an alcoholic...

chika said...

Hi there,

Fae - if you love Muscat (okay, a good one) you'll love this cake... be sure to have a glass of the same wine with your slice!

Reid - do you drink teas? I guess aromatic kona coffee might be a bit too strong for this kind of cake, although I can't tell until I actually try it that way! ;)

Estelle - I guess adding of oil would help making the cake lighter and airier than those using butter. I didn't taste the olive oil even a bit, but it was truly light and aromatic cake. Every time I see those spoons or folks I think of you! :D

Sukotto-sensei - o I'm such a social drinker, you know!