Bright Winter Stars Are Shining

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One of the very best things about winter in the south of France is the fact that clémentines de Corse are everywhere.  They’re gorgeous, sweet, juicy, seedless, and appear in a fresh nest of leaves so you know they were just picked.  They’re so cool they have their own website, right here

They’re Algerian by ancestry, Corsican by birth, and I can’t resist them, so  the fruit bowl is always overflowing with their brilliant bounty.  Although it’s normally just a peel-and-play operation around here, recently I came across a recipe for using them in a cake.  I’m probably the umpteenth person (or as you say in French more elegantly, la énième personne) in the blogosphere to tout Nigella Lawson’s Clementine Cake but the cake deserves the attention.  At least, I’m sure that my version is fabulous, and I’ll bet her original is too.

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This is a really moist, delectable, gluten-free cake that’s as good for breakfast as it is for dessert.  I used ground hazelnuts instead of Nigella’s ground almonds and I loved it like that, so if you can get ground hazelnuts, so much the better.  If not, ground almonds should be delicious too.  And because I have a lot of vanilla beans floating around the kitchen, having bought them super-cheap for the benefit of orphanages in Madagascar, I tossed the seeds of one in to the batter.

Use the most delicious clementines you can find, since they’re the key to the success of the recipe.

Hazelnut Clementine Cake

13 oz/375 gms clementines, preferably organic
6 eggs
8 oz/225 gms sugar
9 oz/250 gms finely ground hazelnuts
1 heaping tsp. baking powder
1 vanilla bean
hazelnut oil or butter for the pan

Put the whole clementines in a pan of cold water, bring to a boil and cook for 2 hours, replenishing the water as necessary.   Yep, two hours.  Drain them and when they’re cool, if your fruit isn’t seedless, cut them in half and remove any seeds.   Puree clementines, peel and all,  to a very fine and fluffy paste in the food processor. 

Preheat the oven to 375°F/190ºC.  Brush a 9″ cake pan with hazelnut oil or butter and add a round of parchment paper if you’re not using a nonstick pan.
 
Beat the eggs well with a whisk.  Whisk in the sugar, hazelnut flour and baking powder. Mix well and add the pureed fruit.  Split the vanilla bean in two and scrape the seeds into batter.

Pour the cake mixture into the prepared pan and bake for about an hour, until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool, on a rack, still in the pan.  Remove from pan when cool.

This cake tastes great right away, better the day after baking, and even better than that on the third day.  If you’re the disciplined sort, wrap it well in foil and let it rest for a couple of days before you serve it.  It’s utterly delicious as is, but a little glaze doesn’t hurt it either.

And I know I promised to tell you about the Lyon Christmas market, but since tomorrow we’re off to Aix en Provence to visit their marche de Noël, we’ll have a marché-palooza when I get home.  In the meantime, do yourself a favor and bake that cake.

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6 Comments on “Bright Winter Stars Are Shining”

  1. Eden Says:

    That sounds fabulous! and perfect for our Solstice dinner when my GF intolerant friend is coming over.

  2. Heinz Says:

    I guess the Marché Noel in Aix will be on the Course Mirabeau. So don’t forget to enter No.12 Chez Bechard and buy Callisons, the best ones in town, I’ve been told. They are really good. If possible, visit the nativity set made by the Santonnier Paul Fouque.

  3. Abra Bennett Says:

    Heinz – thanks for the calissons tip. Calissons are just about my favorite candy in the world, and I’m really happy to know where to find the best ones. Miam miam et merci!

    Eden – you’ll love the cake and I hope your friend will too.


  4. Oh I love clementines! I’ve been gorging myself on them for a couple of weeks. They are perfect right now. One of the best things about Christmas is this fruit. Thanks for the recipe!

  5. Eden Says:

    Thank you Abra – your recipes never steer me wrong!

    I made the cake up this afternoon – something of a cross between your version & Nigella’s since I discovered after I’d already started that I was low on hazelnut flour & ended up using about 75% almond flour instead. I made an 8″ cake & several test cupcakes. There are two small cupcakes left that we’re gong to try to save till tomorrow to see how they taste on day two, but day one was pretty impressive. (the actual cake is destined for a holiday party this evening.)

    I love how much moisture the pureed clementines add. I’m wondering how mandarins would work since I always have a box of those lying around the house & would thus be able to whip this up impromptu. (Well, as impromptu as any recipe that takes 4 hours CAN be…)

  6. Nancy Says:

    Would those of you who can compare fresh clementines to fresh mandarin oranges (satsumas) please describe the difference? I’ve never had a clementine that hadn’t gone through a packing house and a long shipping trip. They tasted so tired that I’ve never bothered with them again. However, I know that mandarins (and navel oranges, and most valencias) suffer just as cruelly. Therefor I’m fairly certain I’ve never had a proper clementine.

    Oh – and a lesson in pronunciation for this fruit’s name would also be welcome. Long i, silent e? Or short i, very short e? Or something else altogether? How many syllables does that word have, when it isn’t part of an American mountain folk song?


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