Recap: Cakes, Nuts, Crab Cioppino

A quick summary of recipes that didn’t get posted during the holiday sabbatical, but were too delicious to ignore.

First was a dried fruit and nutcake that just happened to also be vegan. I say it that way because there’s a misconception that vegan desserts = “dry, crumbly and and uninteresting.” I confess, I’ve thought that myself. But done right, and with recipes developed by people who love good food, vegan sweets are light, luscious and very ono. The vegan butterscotch quick bread by Hannah of Bittersweet that we made in October (see post) proved that point, and so did this brandy-soaked dried fruit and nut cake from bee and Jai at Jugalbandi. Their recipe provided enough batter for a gift cake (shown here, made with a Gugelhupf pan— smaller than a Bundt) and a 8×8 cake for us. Bee recommended soaking the dried fruits in rum fora monthbefore baking!

I only had 3 days to soak my cherries, apricots and raisins in brandy, but I would like to try the longer soaking method in future. I did save the soaking liquid, poured it over the square cake, wrapped it tightly in plastic and foil, and kept it in the fridge until after new year’s. We had our first slices this past weekend over a beach-side breakfast — I have to say, our spirits rose with the sun! It is so flavorful and moist, it’s hard to believe it was made without eggs or oil. I’m not a fan of glaced fruit, so I don’t like traditional fruitcakes. This, however, is a cake of a different order. Bee’s Fruit and Nut Cake recipe.

We were invited to a wonderful Italian-American Christmas dinner with our friends Laurie and Brian and their family. Chef Brian prepared stromboli, veal parmesan, and spaghetti with meatballs, all from scratch — he was prepping into the wee hours of Christmas morning, bless him! I offered to make Tiramisu for dessert, in keeping with their Italian menu. Laurie is expecting their third child in February so the raw eggs in my usual recipe were out of the question. Instead, I tried a creme anglaise base so the eggs were cooked before adding the other custard ingredients, and proceeded as usual. I was impressed how close this came to the original, without the worry of having to use raw eggs! This may be my recipe of choice in future because it does eliminate the concern about the eggs. Don’t be tempted to substitute cocoa powder for the grated chocolate in this recipe. Chalky powder (no matter which brand) can’t compete with the creamy texture and taste grated dark chocolate lends this recipe. Tiramisu, custard-based recipe. Our thanks and love to Brian and Laurie for sharing their family celebration this year — Chef B, you’re the best!

This was an alternative recipe for sweet spiced nuts (see post) that does not use egg whites. It’s actually more like the candied walnuts (minus the sugar coating) we had with the spicy prawns at our favorite Chinese restaurant, and they are certainly tasty. But (you knew there was a “but” coming) they’re cooked first in a sugar syrup, cooled in syrup overnight, dried another night, deep-fried, and coated in sugar. It’s pretty time-consuming, and very laden with fat and sugar. With that word to the wise, here’s the recipe for Crispy Sweet Walnuts.

For our second consecutive Christmas Eve we had Dungeness crab cioppino. Little piece of heaven. Until we moved to Hawaii 3 years ago, I had not had Dungeness in 10 years, and T had never tried it. Having grown up in Maine and around lobster boats as a teen, dear hubby was of the opinion that no crab was worth the effort of all the work it took to eat it. He had never tried Dungeness. Let’s just say, in the immortal words of “The Borg”: he was assimilated. This is the first time we’ve included fresh clams — their extra sweetness was a delight, but not necessary if they’re not available where you are. Dungeness crab cioppino recipe.