Dining out in Croatia. (Photo by Patty Schied)

Dining out in Croatia. (Photo by Patty Schied)

Cooking for Pleasure: Almond cake from a trip to Croatia

I should have probably titled this week’s column: “Eating For Pleasure.” My daughter, Sally and I spent the first two weeks of May traveling from Split, Croatia, down the Dalmation coast to Dubrovnik in the lovely small ship Bellisima.

The two of us, along with 32 other passengers ate our way down the warm sunny coast, consuming over a dozen different varieties of seafood, drinking the local wines and sampling their delightful liqueurs, fruits and vegetables.

Probably because of their diet (no fast food restaurants) and their reliance on walking everywhere, the people of Croatia who we saw throughout our trip were strong, tall and healthy. Too bad we don’t live that way.

A finished Croatian almond cake. (Photo by Patty Schied)

A finished Croatian almond cake. (Photo by Patty Schied)

As we travelled down the coast, the ship docked each afternoon at one of the many ancient towns and villages. We visited Trogir, Vis, Hvar and Korcula. Each one paved with cobblestones; the narrow streets often not wide enough for cars. Many had stone stairways leading up to ancient towers that loomed over them, obviously built centuries before as protection from invading armies

Every night after exploring, we ate at local restaurants, usually small ones run by families. Always on the menus were several kinds of fish, grilled vegetables and sometimes a black squid ink risotto. Sally loved the octopus salad. My mouth waters at the memories.

The almond cake recipe I have included is adapted from one we found in a Croatian cookbook. Adapted because some measurements were missing, directions unclear and ingredients listed in grams which had to be converted into ounces.

Sally and I each made this cake. It is delicious. Noticeably, it is both dairy free and gluten free. The aromatics of citrus, almonds and rosemary transform what might be a nondescript almond cake into an unforgettable dessert, a luxurious end to any company dinner. There is so much citrus used, both juice and peel, I recommend purchasing organic fruit. No point in serving a pesticide-infused cake.

Almond and rosemary cake with olive oil and citrus fruit

Ingredients:

2 cups of thinly sliced almonds toasted until lightly browned in 375-degree oven for about 8 minutes. Check frequently to make sure they aren’t burned.

4 cups almond flour

½ tsp salt

1 Tablespoon baking powder

4 eggs

Zest of 4 organic lemons

Zest of 2 organic oranges

½ cup lemon juice

Juice of one orange

7 ounces of powdered sugar

1 cup of very fresh high-quality extra virgin olive oil (old or cheap olive oil will ruin the cake)

1 tablespoon of finely minced rosemary

Step one: Spray a 9 X 2 inch cake pan with cooking oil, then line with parchment paper and spray again.

Step two: When cool, finely grind the toasted sliced almonds. Combine the almonds, almond flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl.

Step Three: Beat the eggs, powdered sugar, lemon and orange zest until frothy. Finely chop the rosemary leaves and add them to the olive oil.

Step Four: Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Combine eggs with olive oil, orange and lemon juice. Add the dry ingredients, stirring until the batter is smooth.

Step Five: Spoon cake batter into the lined pan and bake for 60 minutes.

Test cake with a toothpick to see if it is done. If not, cook for an additional 5 minutes. Let cool on rack for ten minutes. Place another rack over the cake, turn it upside down, then remove from pan. Remove parchment paper. Let cool before serving.

Step Six: Place cake on serving plate. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, orange and lemon zest and a little minced rosemary. Orange zest flavored whipped cream is a delightful topping.

Note: This cake keeps well, assuming you don’t have guests who want seconds.

• Patty Schied is a longtime Juneau resident who studied at the Cordon Bleu in London, has cooked meals for both AWARE and the Glory Hall, and has written a cookbook. Cooking For Pleasure appears every other week in Capital City Weekly. Contact Patty Schied at patschied@gmail.com.

More photos by Patty Schied from Croatia

(Photo by Patty Schied)
(Photo by Patty Schied)
(Photo by Patty Schied)
(Photo by Patty Schied)
(Photo by Patty Schied)
(Photo by Patty Schied)

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