This weekend I had a long editing project to work on. I was getting what seemed to be an email every 10 minutes about a volunteer event on Monday (that I was ostensibly baking for). I needed to plan a new class I would be teaching during the week. And we won't even talk about what the apartment looked like.
I was in a state of stress. I snapped at everyone. And yet I baked. Something complicated, even. And you know what? I don't regret it. Everything got done, and there was some delicious cake at the end of the tunnel.
The recipe is a bit fussy in that you're supposed to make the dough and the filling the day before you make the actual cake. I didn't have all the ingredients for the filling the night before (which stressed me out no end), so I made it a few hours before, and it was fine.
I was so out of time that I brought the dough and filling over to my in-laws' house and fixed it on the outside table (great light for photography, though!)
The result? It was really good. The filling is something I could (and did) eat with a spoon, though I would put in the orange rind at the end so it doesn't get that cooked taste. The dough really does taste like a Fig Newton, in a good way. And these were popular! My friends Cécile and Gabrielle could pick my cake out of a line-up of desserts other moms made (I think it's the dried fruits and whole wheat flour), and Gabrielle mercilessly promoted the cake and my "magic baking". People seemed to like it a lot, or at least they were polite, and almost all of it disappeared. And when I brought the cake home, Julia pronounced it "so freaking delicious". Can't go wrong with that!
Have I learned anything? I should probably manage my time better. But still, given the situation again (and I probably will be this weekend), I would totally bake. All that other stuff can (probably) wait.
Here's the recipe. Make it when you have time.
First, soak your apricots as long as possible, preferably overnight:
12 oz. dried apricots
1-1/2 c. (12 oz.) water (if this is last minute, boiling water may be called for)
Let sit (in a saucepan if you have one you can spare for a while), keeping the apricots under water. Now get to work on the dough.
1/2 c. (4 oz.) butter, room temperature
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. (3.5 oz.) brown sugar
1/2 c. (5.5 oz.) honey
1 large egg
1 c. (4 oz.) sifted flour
2 c. (11 oz.) unsifted whole wheat flour
I did this with a food processor, but you could also do it with a mixer. Beat the butter with the baking powder, baking soda, and salt until fluffy. Beat in the brown sugar and honey, and then the egg. Pulse in the two flours (or beat in at low speed). Wrap the dough in waxed or parchment paper and put in the fridge, preferably overnight. Now it's time for the filling.
1 large organic orange
2/3 c. (3 oz.) golden raisins
1 c. (7 oz.) sugar
1 15-16 oz. can crushed pineapple in juice
1 c. (3.5 oz.) walnuts in medium-sized pieces
Take the apricots you soaked last night, and if they're not already in a heavy medium saucepan, put them in one (don't drain them). Finely grate the zest of the orange into a small bowl and set aside. Now peel the orange and cut it into segments. Put the segments and squeeze the juice in with the apricots. Add the raisins, sugar, and pineapple (if you can only find rings, like me, just give them a rough chop) with its juice. Put on the stove over medium heat and bring to a low boil. Then turn down the heat and simmer, uncovered, until all the liquid has evaporated. This takes a long time but only requires occasional stirring, so you can do other things while you wait. When it's thick and jam-like, take it off the stove and let it cool down to room temperature. Then add the walnuts and the reserved grated orange rind. You can either refrigerate the filling for later or use it now. You are ready to assemble the cakes.
Heat the oven to 400. Lightly flour a pastry cloth or other rolling surface. Get the dough out of the fridge and cut it in half (put one half back in the fridge). Roll out half the dough into a rectangle that should theoretically be 15x6 and perfectly straight. If you see the pictures above, you'll know that didn't happen to me--mine was too short and too wide--and it worked fine. As pictured above, spoon some filling down the center of the dough. Remember that if you made the full recipe for filling, you're not going to get even close to using it all, so don't go overboard. Fold one long side over the filling, then the other one. Press shut at the ends. Using a big spatula or a bench scraper, carefully flip the roll onto a sheet of parchment paper (it's helpful to have an extra pair of hands for this). Repeat the process. Maida wants you to shape and bake these one at a time, but I found that two fit easily onto a baking sheet and baked just fine.
Bake these for 15-18 minutes, or until light golden and firm. Carefully transfer to racks to cool. When you're ready to serve these, use a serrated knife to slice them (at a diagonal is nice) at the thickness you like. Maida says each roll should give you 6-9 slices, but I'm pretty sure I got at least 12 from each. Enjoy with a nice cup of tea and some new acquaintances.