Thursday, December 04, 2014

Bolo Preto (Caribbean Black Cake) No ordinary fruitcake!

Traditional Fruitcake
All my life, I have cringed at the taste and smell of candied, dried fruits and chopped nuts baked into a sometimes moist (most times not) pound cake-like bread. Fruitcake! Yuk. I call them doorstops. I am a believer in the theory that there is actually only one actual fruitcake and it is re-gifted over and over and over again, year after year. But, I could be wrong.

The earliest recipe from ancient Rome lists pomegranate seeds, pine nuts and raisins, mixed into barley mash. In the Middle Ages, honey, spices, and preserved fruits were added and the name fruitcake was first used.

I was turned off even by the thought of fruitcake, that is until a few years ago, when my friend and muse, Elaine, the original Gourmet Girl, shared with me the most amazing, traditional Caribbean fruitcake recipe from her Aruban mom. While I was skeptical at first, after watching bottle after bottle of liquor added over a months time, I started to think, "Ok, this one may be different." This is Elaine's version and she calls it "Black Cake" and folks, it is truly amazing. Delicious, moist and unlike any traditional fruitcake I had ever tasted. But beware, unless you have a strong constitution, more than one piece will leave you a bit tipsy!

 For those that do not like fruitcake, this recipe is such a completely opposite version of what the term fruitcake conjures up in our mind. Moist, delicious, with marinated fruit that is soft, chewy and definitely not candied hard little bits of yuk. And, with all that liquor, this is definitely NOT a version to share with the kids. Unless of course you'd like a little piece and quiet. One piece ought to have even the most active child sleeping like a baby within the hour. (Okay you crazies, I see you sitting there thinking about that. That was just a joke! I am not advocating sharing a liquor infused fruitcake with children!)

The recipe is as follows and you should start now if you want to be on time for Christmas, as it takes up to a MONTH to soak the fruit properly!

Elaine Giammetta's Bolo Preto
Makes 1 large loaf  or 8 individual loafs (Individual loaf shown here)

Elaine Giammetta's Caribbean Black Cake
1/2 cup chopped prunes
1 /2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped dried figs
1/2 cup chopped dried dates
1/2 cup chopped dried cherries
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup chopped dried peaches
1/4 cup chopped candied pineapple
1/4 cup chopped candied oranges
1/4 cup chopped candied lemons
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup cake flour (no need to add baking powder)
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 stick sweet unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 large eggs
1 Bottle of Amaretto (can also use brandy or cognac)
1 Bottle of Frangelico

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Put fruits and nuts into a very large plastic container (DO NOT USE METAL) Completely cover all the chopped fruits and nuts with the Frangelico and Amaretto. Cover tightly and put into a cool, dry spot. Let it soak for a minimum of one month, checking weekly to be sure that fruit remains completely covered with liquid. Add additional liquor as necessary as the liquor, even in a sealed container will evaporate. (We added at least 1 more bottle of each liquor) Told you this is NOT for kids!

After 30 days drain the excess liquid from the marinated fruit, reserving the liquid to use later. Cream together butter, sugar and vanilla. Beat eggs for 3 minutes on low. Add the sugar/butter mixture to the eggs. Add salt to the flour, slowly incorporate flour into the fruit/nut mixture. Gradually add egg and butter mixture to the fruit until you have the consistency of a cake batter. If necessary, add additional flour, being careful not to add too much, as the fruit mixture will be very ‘wet.’

Elaine Giammetta's Caribbean Black Cake
Lightly butter and flour baking pans. (I like to use the small individual loaf pans.) Pour batter into pans ¾ full. Cook until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Be sure to check on cakes periodically, if top begins to darken, cover with aluminum foil to prevent burning. Depending on the size of your pan, cooking time can take up to an hour (Bundt pan). Cool cakes completely. Using toothpick, prick the top of the cakes and drizzle reserved liquor over cakes. Repeat until all liquor has been absorbed.

WOW does that sound amazing or what? I have learned my lesson; always stay open minded and never count a recipe out until you’ve tried every imaginable version. I am now a believer! Viva La Fruitcake!

Happy Holidays and as always, 

Bon Appetit!

Image source fruitcake;

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Eggnog Crepe Ravioli

This recipe comes from former Chocolatier Ingo Wullert. While it may take a bit of time, it's worth all the prep, as your guests will be thrilled with these little pockets of deliciousness.
Serves 5 (3 crepes per serving)

For the eggnog:
10 egg yolks
1 vanilla bean
25 oz sweetened condensed milk
7 oz pear liqueur (Poire William)

For the ravioli filling:
1 cup of milk chocolate drops
½ cup of heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon instant coffee

For the crepes:*
1 ½ cups of milk
½ cup soda water
3 eggs
6 tablespoons sugar
9 oz self rising flour
A pinch of salt
* You can buy ready made crepes at your local gourmet store, but making your own is so much better.

For the garnish:
Dark chocolate shavings
Some melted dark chocolate

Make the eggnog one day ahead. In a kitchen blender combine the egg yolk and scraped vanilla bean. Blend well at medium speed. While blending, add the sweetened condensed milk. Add the liqueur and blend at high speed for another minute. Poor the eggnog in a jar and let it rest overnight without putting the lid on.

Make to crepes one day ahead. Combine the sifted flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Make some room in the center of the flour and add the 3 eggs. Gently mix the flour with the egg with a wooden spoon. When the batter starts to thicken add some of the milk. Keep mixing the batter by adding the rest of the milk little by little. When everything is mixed add the soda water the same way you added the milk. Chill the batter in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes before using. Make the crepes in a crepe pan, being sure to use a generous amount of butter. When all crepes are made (about 15), cover them with foil wrap and place in the refrigerator.

Ravioli Filling
Heat up the heavy whipping cream and add the instant coffee. Add the milk chocolate drops ad stir until all is smooth. Cover and set aside till next day.

To Serve
Before serving, prepare the dessert plate by adding a thin layer of the eggnog. Take two crepes at a time and reheat in the microwave for about 1 minute. Cut the hot crepes in 2 inch ravioli squares. With a teaspoon, fill the center of the square with a little filling and add another square on top. Place the ravioli on the plates with eggnog and garnish with chocolate shavings and thin stripes of chocolate.

Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

Bon Appetit!


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Mulled Wine, The Perfect Holiday Drink!

The first time I ever heard the term mulled wine, Clarence, the angel in Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life" ordered it while sitting in a bar with George Baily. I was about 7 or 8 years old. Mulled wine, hmmmm it's fall, winters coming, let's take a look see.

In medieval times, sanitation was poor and many believed it was far healthier to drink mulled wine than risk drinking water. There is some truth to the health benefits, as drinking wine in moderation has been linked to reducing the risk of suffering from heart disease, diabetes and dementia. Lemon and orange both contain vitamin C which acts as an antioxidant.

Mulled simply means heated and spiced. So you can have mulled wine, mulled cider, mulled mead, etc. No one knows the true history of mulled wine, but there was medieval mention of Ypocras or Hipocris named after the physician Hippocrates. These drinks were thought to be healthy and served as tonics in the Roman Empire. Fast forward to around 1500 and British cookbooks speak of mulling Clarrey. This was Bordeaux wine infused with honey, cinnamon and cardamom. Those Victorian English enjoyed their mulled wine, and even served a version of it, called Negus, at children’s birthday parties. If you boil the wine when making it, you can burn off the alcohol and I’m sure that’s what the Victorian parents did before serving it.

Most likely, the drink got its origins from wine sellers who found themselves with some spoiled product. These innovative manufacturers heated their sour merchandise, flavored it with honey and spices and a new drink was born.

No matter what European country you find yourself in around the holidays; you are bound to come across a local version of their mulled wine. The Swedes serve glögg, while the Germans enjoy gluhwein. The French sip vin chaud and the Poles polish off grzane wino. The Hungarians brew up forralt bor and the Italians hand round vin brule. While the basis of mulled wine is nearly the same for everyone, regional differences give each one a special taste. The Swedes add raisins and almonds to theirs, as well as more sugar and usually a bit of extra alcohol like vodka or cognac than most. In Germany, you’ll find a lighter, less sweet version. Gluhwein has less sugar than glögg and more spices like nutmeg, clove and cinnamon.

The Swedish word for mulled wine, Glögg, comes from the verb ‘to heat up.’ The term glödgat vin, literally meaning ‘heated wine,’ first appeared in Sweden in 1609. By that time, many European countries had stopped drinking spiced wine, but the tradition has survived in some places, including Sweden. In the 1890s mulled wine became a Swedish Christmas Tradition and spread more and more widely.

Glögg is the Nordic form of mulled wine, similar to Glühwein in German-speaking countries. Glühwein is usually prepared from red wine, heated and spiced with cinnamon sticks, vanilla pods, cloves, citrus and sugar. Almonds and raisins are often added to the Scandinavian version, though not to the German. Fruit wines such as blueberry wine and cherry wine are sometimes used instead of grape wine in Germany. The oldest Glühwein tankard is documented in the high noble German and first Riesling grower of the world, Count John IV, of Katzenelnbogen around 1420. This gold-plated lockable silver tankard imitating the traditional wine woven wooden can is called Welcome. In Romania it is called vin fiert ("boiled wine"), and can be made using either red or white wine, sometimes adding peppercorn. In Moldova the izvar is made from red wine with black pepper and honey. In Italy, mulled wine is typical in the northern part of the country and is called vin brulè.

Glögg is a traditional drink of the Swedish & Finnish Advent season - Advent being the six weeks leading up to the Birth of Christ on the 25th of December. Glögg is traditionally made with red wine, and each small glass has a few almonds and raisins in it as well as the drink. December in this region is a dark, wintry time, and this hot drink helps keep the spirits cheered.

Glögg's origins are with mulled wine - wine heated with spices. Mulled wine was known to medieval Europeans and celebrated from at least 400AD. In the 1800s, a special mulled wine was popular in Europe known as "Glühwein," which began to incorporate the special Glögg ingredients - raisins and almonds. Glögg also tends to have more sugar as well as a heavier alcohol content. Given the frigid winters seen in Scandanavia, this can be quite necessary! Gingersnaps, Gingerbread, and cinnamon rolls are pairings associated with glogg.

Flaming Glögg
1 bottle red wine
1 bottle aquavit (like a flavored vodka)
10 whole cardamoms
5 whole cloves
2 sticks of cinnamon
4 figs
1 cup raisins
1 cup blanched almonds
1 orange skin, dried
1/2 lb sugar cubes

Put wine, aquavit, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, figs, raisins, almonds and orange into a pot. Simmer until almost boiling. Remove from heat. Put sugar in sieve, dip into liquid. Light with match and burn until gone. Cover to put out flame. Serve liquid warm, putting a few raisins and almonds into each glass.

The spices usually used for mulled wine are cloves, grated nutmeg and cinnamon or mace. Any kind of wine may be mulled, but port and claret are those usually selected for the purpose and the latter requires a very large proportion of sugar.

It's a Wonderful Life Mulled Wine

2 bottles red wine
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
4 sticks cinnamon
5 whole cloves
1 orange
1 lemon

Zest the fruit, avoiding the white pith. Put this, the sugar, cinnamon and cloves into the water. Bring this to a slow boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Now add the wine. Add in the actual orange and lemon fruit part, sliced up. Warm this on low heat for 40 minutes (do NOT boil). Strain out the wine and serve!

1600s England
In medieval times, mulled wines were called Ypocras or Hipocris, named after the physician Hippocrates. This recipe is from The Accomplisht Cook, written in 1660 by Robert May. The recipe is for Ipocras with Red Wine.

1 gallon wine
3oz cinnamon
2oz ginger, sliced
1/4oz cloves
1oz mace
20 peppercorns
1oz nutmeg
3lb sugar
2qt cream

"Take a gallon of wine, three ounces of cinnamon, two ounces of slic't ginger, a quarter of an ounce of cloves, an ounce of mace, twenty corns of pepper, an ounce of nutmegs, three pound of sugar, and two quarts of cream."

In essence, mix all ingredients and heat slowly in a large pot. Serve warm. You can also let it 'settle' for a few days and serve it cool, depending on which way tastes better to you!

Brown Sugar Mulled Wine
2 bottles dry Cabernet Sauvignon
Peel of 1 orange
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
8 whole cloves
1 whole nutmeg
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
Orange slices

Pour wine in slow cooker. Wrap orange peel, cinnamon stick halves, cloves, and nutmeg in cheesecloth. Add to slow cooker. Cover and cook on HIGH 2 to 2.5 hours. Discard spice bag; ladle into glasses. Garnish with orange slices.

Clove and Nutmeg Mulled Wine
3 bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon
1 cup orange juice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp powdered clove
2 Tbsp whole cloves
1 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp brown sugar

Combine ingredients in a large saucepan over very low heat. Warm carefully, stirring frequently. Serve warm.

Bon Appetit!