A little while ago, as I was perusing the vast bulk section of the Co-op in Eureka, CA, I decided to buy half a small paper bag of mixed tropical dried fruit, without having the slightest idea about what to do with it. The other day, as I was trying to make sense of my cupboard organizing rationale (I have none and therefore I have difficulty finding what I need when I need it), I found the paper bag with my impulsive purchase and decided I had to use it. I also decided it was time to use the ring bottom of the 10" springform pan that had been sitting in its box since its arrival in my kitchen, which means I decided to make a ciambella, a ring cake. Besides the tropical dried fruit mentioned above, the ciambella would include the Greek yogurt I had in the fridge and at least an orange (arancia). A bit of nomenclature before I move on: orange, the fruit, is arancia, plural arance; orange, the tree, is arancio, plural aranci.
Ciambelle are usually simple home-made cakes that make a great merenda (afternoon snack) for children. Before I describe my ciambella, I need to let you know that non tutte le ciambelle riescono col buco. This Italian proverb lets you know that not all ring cakes come out hollow in the middle, or, to be a bit less literal, not everything turns out as expected. I don't know how this proverb originated. I imagine that ring molds were not always available to bakers. Now, however, they are, which means you are guaranteed to get a ciambella col buco. You don't need to worry about the shape of what you are about to bake and can focus your energy and attention on its flavor.
Serendipitously, one of the many bookmarks (segnalibri) that give to my copy of "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone" by Deborah Madison a look of much-used book (libro), which it is, is stationed on a page with the recipe for Orange and Dried Fruit Coffee Cake. Using some of the indications of that recipe and applying the predefined requirements described above, plus some other ideas I had, I came up with a ciambella all'arancia that, secondo me (in my opinion), is very good.
- a stick of unsalted butter, softened
- la buccia grattugiata e il succo di un'arancia piuttosto grossa (grated zest and juice of a large orange: I recommend to use an organic orange)
- half a cup of white sugar
- due uova a temperatura ambiente (two eggs at room temperature: I used extra-large ones)
- un pizzico di sale (a pinch of salt)
- a teaspoon of baking powder
- a teaspoon of baking soda
- two cups of regular unbleached flour
- a quarter cup of whole-wheat pastry flour
- a cup of non-fat Greek-style yogurt
- 3/4 cup of chopped tropical dried fruit with some non-crystallized candied ginger mixed in
- 1/4 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
- half a cup of chopped pecans
Preheat the oven to 350 F and spray with olive oil a 10" springform pan with ring bottom or 10" ring pan. Cream butter with orange zest and sugar, then add the eggs and beat. Stir in the juice, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Add the sifted flours and the yogurt and mix until just combined. Fold in the dried fruit, chocolate chips and chopped pecans. Spoon into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, 45 minutes or so (oven-dependent).
What I like about this ciambella is that each ingredient maintains its personality and its flavor comes out clean and clear. Each bite is different, depending on the combination of ingredients it includes: sometimes the chocolate chips prevail and your mouth has that delicious chocolate and orange pairing that is irresistible; sometimes the ginger makes its zingy presence felt; at other times the pecans insert their crunchiness. And the mix of tropical fruit makes you feel like you are idling on a beach, somewhere, under a warm sun. Basically, eating una fetta (a slice) of this ciambella is like being on vacation.
This is my contribution to Fresh Produce of the Month, an event organized by Marta of An Italian in the US. As you can imagine, Marta and I have something in common. We first met in the food blogosphere, then in person and recently shared a delicious meal, the first, I hope, of many.
Click on the button to hear me pronounce the Italian words mentioned in the post:
or launch the ciambella all'arancia audio file [mp3].
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