Monday, May 3, 2010

Dessert Tapas

As I mentioned in my PIE DAY post, we were lucky enough to attend a wine-tasting party on Friday night.
The wine of the night was Tempranillo, a Spanish red, and the food was a wonderful spread of Spanish influenced Tapas.

It may not surprise you that I am often asked to bring dessert to parties, and this time I stretched my usual repertoire to try my hand at creating some dessert Tapas. I love being inspired to try new genres and recipes.  Fussy appetizers and bite size dishes are really not my thing-I'm not going to spend hours stuffing or piping complicated fillings into something tiny, then rolling that in something else and tying it all together with a chive bundle.  No way. Simple and tasty-that's my style.

Almond and orange immediately came to mind for complimentary tastes to the theme, and mini cakes seemed like a good vehicle for these two ingredients.  Remember, I wanted to keep this simple, so I decided to go flourless-fewer ingredients and dense cakes that deliver a punch in a couple of bites.
(I have NO idea why there is a blank spot in that pan:)
Here is my version, which was super tasty, but may need a bit more tinkering.
Try it and let me know what you think.

Flourless Orange Almond Cakes

1 c blanched slivered almonds
6 eggs, separated
1 c + 2 T extra fine sugar
2 thin strips of orange peel, blanched

-pulse almonds in food processor
-add orange peel, and process until finely ground
-add egg yolks and sugar
-pulse and scrape as needed until well combined
-transfer mixture to a bowl
-beat egg whites in a bowl until they form stiff peaks
-fold egg whites into almond mixture
-spoon batter into mini cake tins with paper liners
(you can also make one big cake in a 9 x 13 pan, greased and floured)
-place in preheated 400 degree oven, then lower heat to 350 degrees when cakes go in
-bake mini cakes for about 15-18 minutes, and large cake for about 30 minutes
-cakes should be brown and toothpick inserted in center should come out clean
-dust cakes with powdered sugar or serve with whipped cream

I also wanted a dessert with a little bit of spice or smoke, so I turned to one of my favorite candy books.
Brittles, Barks and BonBons by Charity Ferreira provided the perfect recipe.

Spanish Almond Brittle
from Brittles, Barks and BonBons by Charity Ferreira

Butter, for pan
2 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika (pimenton dulce)
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups sugar
1 cup water
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 cups blanched slivered almonds, lightly toasted

-lightly butter a 10 by 15 inch jelly roll pan. 
-in a small bowl, stir together the paprika and salt, set aside.
-in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, stir together the sugar, water, and corn syrup until the sugar is completely dissolved, about 5 minutes.  Increase the heat to high and boil without stirring until the syrup is golden brown (about 335 degrees on candy thermometer), 5 to 10 minutes.  When the sugar begins to brown aroung the edges of the pan, swirl the pan gently so that it carmelizes evenly.
-remove from the heat and carefully stir in the nuts and paprika mixture.  Immediately pour into the prepared pan.  Let stand at room temperature until cool and hard, about 1 hour.
-chop or break the brittle into pieces.

This brittle was a wonderful combination of sweet, crunchy, smoky and a bit salty. It is the perfect sweet bite to finish off an evening of rich food and red wine.

To finish off my dessert Tapas assortment, I stuffed a few dates with some marzipan.  I mixed a bit of orange zest into the marzipan for a little extra zing.  (Ok-I know this involves stuffing tiny things, but it is still low on the fussy scale)  These three, served on vintage metal serving plates, made for a beautiful, richly toned dessert selection.

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