Have you been over to Jolly Vindaloo yet? If not, I urge you to jump over for a visit. You will find some tasty and imaginative recipes to spice up your cooking repertoire, not to mention gorgeous photography. This month I'm entering the healthy dessert challenge going on there at the moment with a favorite summer, ah heck, anytime recipe. The challenge asks to provide a dessert recipe that can actually be called healthy (hello! right.up.my.alley). I had a hard time trying to narrow down my entry choice (surprise) but decided on this one as it is a universal favorite with everyone who tries it, and it seemed so right for this time of year. It simply gets rave reviews wherever it goes--family, friends' houses, my work, TH's work. The fabulous part about it is that is uses 100% whole wheat flours and has very little saturated fat...only 3 tablespoons of butter. The other ingredients are healthy as well. Where do I start? Olive oil (heart healthy), yogurt (probiotics), citrus (vitamin C), poppy seeds (too many benefits to mention).
The recipe combines two favorite flavors for me, poppy seeds......and oranges! Pulsing the zest together with the sugar in the food processor ends up infusing the entire cake with the wonderful taste and essence of orange, more than just adding the zest to the batter by itself. Something wonderful happens when the orange-saturated sugar bakes and blends in with the rest of the batter. Pure bliss!
I didn't have enough of the small mini-Bundts on hand to use up all of the batter, so also inaugurated a 6 1/2-inch springform pan that my sweet husband had brought home for me as a surprise one afternoon (yep, he really knows what makes me giddy). I have also made this in two loaf pans in the past, or you could make one large Bundt or similar size cake, or muffins.
The glaze is very important to this recipe as it is absorbed into the cake and helps provide some added moisture. When baking with whole wheat flours, this is always a challenge--trying to find that right balance in texture without making things too dense, dry or crumbly. If you choose to forgo the glaze (what? really?) then you might want to add another 1/4 cup of yogurt or oil to help keep the crumb moist. The glaze pooled into the little indentations in the top of the mini-Bundts which soaked into the surrounding cake...are you in the kitchen yet? Wait! Come back! You need the recipe (below).
OK...here is my mini-soapbox on glaze. The glaze adds another layer of flavor without adding too many 'bad' attributes, and it's so pretty! This is one method I use time and time again...boiling down some fresh juice or berries with just a touch of sugar or other taste-boosting ingredients to help concentrate the flavor without adding too many calories, which I think is a great method of adding complexity and interest rather than just throwing mindless 'sweet' at something. It is a flavor enhancer.
Although I would be perfectly happy without any other bling here, I went ahead and whipped up just a little bit of cream and spiked it with some Grand Marnier I had on hand, to add another level of citrus to the mix and to dress things up a bit (this is a challenge you know). You could skip the liquor and go with some lavender (delicious!) or thyme (yum!) or any other flavor that sounds great to you. Truth be told, I am just not much of a frosting fan. Give me a small portion of whipped cream, mascarpone drizzle or fruit glaze any day over an overdose of thick, gooey sugar on steroids (a.k.a traditional frosting). Besides, the cake is delicious enough on its own...end of monologue.
I used one of my favorite ingredients when cooking with citrus, orange flower water. As I've mentioned many times on previous posts, you can find it in ethnic markets and also online. I use it all the time and love the unique flavor and aroma it imparts. You could use 1 teaspoon orange extract in its place but you will be missing out on an interesting component of the recipe.
When temperatures soar, sometimes it's nice to rely on a simple and refreshing recipe, for a special 'finis' to a special meal, a coffee get-together with friends, as a lovely hostess gift, or just a delicious way to spoil yourself and loved ones, for no reason at all....without any of the guilt. Just my humble attempt to help make those challenging dessert decisions a little easier (and oh so sweet). Enjoy!
Orange Poppy Seed Cake:
Grated zest and juice of three medium oranges (preferably organic)
1 1/2 cup turbinado sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup plain yogurt (regular yogurt, not Greek)
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup poppy seeds
1 cup milk (I used 2%)
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons orange flower water
3 large eggs
1/4 cup fresh orange juice (from the oranges above)
1 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Orange Glaze (make while the cake is in the oven):
Juice from the three oranges used in the recipe, minus 1/4 cup used in the cake (final glaze amount is approximately 3/4 cup)
1/4 cup turbinado/natural sugar (to taste)
1 tablespoon orange flower water
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Grease the pans of your choice (I use an oil sprayer...see the link on my main page) and set aside.
Add the poppy seeds to the milk in a small bowl or cup large enough to hold both. Stir to incorporate the seeds into the milk as they tend to want to float on the surface. Set aside while you make the rest of the cake.
Sift the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt together, and set aside (I usually sift dry ingredients onto a large piece of wax paper, and then can easily lift up the paper by the ends, forming a 'tube' to slowly pour into the wet ingredients).
Gently pulse the orange zest with the sugar in a food processor until evenly incorporated. Mix in the orange sugar with the butter and oil in a large mixing bowl, and beat on medium speed for approximately three to four minutes until light and fluffy. Add the yogurt and beat until smooth. Add the almond extract, orange flower water and orange juice, mixing well. The mixture may curdle slightly. Add the eggs, one at a time, incorporating well after each addition, scraping down the sides of the bowl and the paddle occasionally. With the mixer on low speed, slowly incorporate the dry ingredients, being very careful not to over mix. Stir until the dry ingredients are just moistened. The batter will be thick. Add the poppy seed and milk mixture, blending until all of the ingredients are just mixed (again, don't overmix). Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s) and bake for 20 to 22 minutes for the small cake pans or muffins, or approximately 45 to 50 minutes for the 6 1/2-inch springform or loaf pans. Cake is done when a wooden skewer in the center comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes in the pan, then gently coax the cake out of the pan and onto a cooking rack.
While the cake is cooking, gently boil the glaze ingredients in a small saucepan on low heat until slightly thickened. Set aside to cool.
Once the cakes are on the rack, spoon the glaze over the cakes in several sessions, allowing the cake to absorb the glaze in between. If you are not using the mini-Bundt pans (which absorb a lot of the glaze in the center indentation), go ahead and place the cake on a serving plate and spoon the glaze over while the cake is on the plate. Any glaze that runs over the sides will be absorbed through the bottom of the cake (a good thing). Serve with a small side of cream or bling of choice (also delicious sans bling). I drizzled a little bit of glaze over the cream.