Monday, May 21, 2018

Loquat cake flavored with orange and rosewater

Loquat trees can be found in many areas in Greece, even in Athens where I’m from, and you can simply reach up, pick the fruit from the tree and eat it right then and there. It’s unfortunate that not many people eat loquats or that they only use them to make jam, because loquats have so much potential and can be used not only in sweet but savory dishes as well.




I think many people simply don’t know what to do with them or they don’t realize how flavorful they are. Loquats have a very unique flavor. They are tart at the beginning but that tartness is never lingering as it is succeeded by a gentle sweetness and an aromatic, fresh and fruity flavor that I can’t really describe. It is reminiscent of stone fruits like apricot or plum but also nutty, almondy somehow.




Loquats should be eaten when fully ripe and indications of that is an orange-y color instead of a pale yellow one and lots of bruises and blemishes. Perhaps that’s why people avoid them, because they think they’ve gone bad when they’re actually at their best.




I love eating loquats straight up, —I frequently combine them with cheeses, especially Greek kefalotyri which is a hard and creamy cheese made with sheep and goat’s milk, and some crusty bread— and I have used them in the past to make jam and preserve. I have been meaning to incorporate them in a cake for ages but never really got around to it until a couple of weeks ago when I finally decided to experiment. I’m happy to report that I had great results that exceeded my expectations.




I made a cake with halved loquats, semolina and almonds, flavored with orange zest and rosewater and it was incredibly flavorful with a wonderful texture. I have since then made this cake twice more to ensure it is right, and everyone who tasted it has fell in love with it.




The loquats and almonds are placed on top of the cake batter and during baking they immerse into it, hiding eventually inside the cake, only to be rediscovered with each slice or bite.




It’s a buttery and not too sweet cake, perfectly balanced, and has the distinctive flavor of the sweet and tart loquats, the citrusy aroma of the orange and the floral quality of the rosewater. It has a moist and fluffy crumb with a crispness from the added semolina and halved almonds, juiciness from the fruit and a slightly crunchy top.




The addition of salted butter was a good reminder that I need to use it more often in baked goods as it always adds a certain je ne sais quoi to cakes and biscuits (like in these pistachio and cocoa nib cookies) that makes them exceptional.









Loquat semolina cake flavored with orange and rosewater

Loquats are extremely easy to peel as their skin comes off very easily. Start by pulling the stem upwards, which will also tear the skin all around and from then on it’s easy to peel them, like you would the skin of a tomato.
Then, cut them in half lengthwise, remove the stones (I have found loquats with only one stone and up to six!) and then you will see that there is a thin membrane in the center. You can remove it, especially any part that is too dark, but peel it off, don’t cut it off or you may remove valuable fruit flesh. If it’s too hard to peel, then leave it alone; it’s edible and it doesn’t really affect the flavor.

You could make this with apricots as well, as long as they are juicy so the cake won’t be dry.

I love eating it plain but it would pair beautifully with a scoop of vanilla or this honey and milk ice cream.




Yield: 8 pieces

Ingredients
180 g good quality salted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing the pan
180 g caster sugar
3 large eggs
140 g all-purpose flour
5 g (1 tsp) baking powder
60 g coarse semolina
Grated zest of 1 large orange
30 g fresh milk, full-fat
1¼ tsp rosewater
6 loquats (300-350 g), stoned, peeled and halved (see instructions above)
25 g (2 Tbsp) blanched halved almonds

Icing sugar, for dusting (optional)

Special equipment: fine sieve, 20 cm round spring-form pan, baking paper, stand mixer or electric hand-held mixer


Preparation
Preheat your oven to 170°C.
Butter the sides and bottom of a 20 cm round, spring-form pan and line the bottom with a round piece of baking paper. (See here how to cut a round piece of baking paper).

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl), add the butter and sugar and beat with the paddle attachment (or with a hand-held mixer) on medium-high speed until creamy, pale and fluffy, for 10-12 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time beating well on medium-high speed after each addition, fully incorporating each egg in the mixture before adding the next.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and semolina, add the grated orange zest and mix. Add half of this mixture to the butter mixture and beat on low, briefly, to incorporate. Then add the milk and rosewater and beat on low until fully incorporated. Add the remaining flour mixture and mix on low just until combined. Don’t overmix. You should have a creamy, fluffy mixture/batter at this point.


Empty the batter in the prepared pan, smooth the top and arrange the loquats on top in one layer as in the photo, pushing them gently into the batter. Sprinkle all over with the halved almonds. The loquats and almonds will sink into the cake during baking.


Bake on the low rack of the preheated oven for 40 minutes, then transfer to the middle rack and bake for a further 10-13 minutes or until the top of the cake is firm to the touch and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. If towards the last 10 minutes of baking, the top of the cake looks too dark to you, cover loosely with a piece of aluminium foil.


Remove the pan from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about 25 minutes. Then, remove the sides of the pan and let cake cool for another 25 minutes before removing the bottom of the pan and the baking paper. Let the cake cool completely on the wire rack before serving.

Serve dusted with icing sugar if you want.

It keeps well for 3-4 days, at room temperature.


2 comments:

  1. Glad to read your recipe, because I found some in Crete and was not to sure what to do with them.
    Will try to bring back some before I leave! Cheers Sandrine

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    Replies
    1. Hi Sandrine! That's great that you got some Greek loquats. Hope you enjoy the cake and would love to hear back from you about it :)

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