Michelle Darmody: Baking with mandarins

MANDARINS are a colourful blast of sweetness through the winter months. They are both convenient and tasty. Easier to peel than an orange and, for me, the perfect size for a nice citrusy blast. They are also great in baking.

While very similar to an orange they have their own unique taste, there are subtly differences.

They are also a nice size for making the caramalised slices to top the custard tart below.

After making the financiers you can use the left-over egg yolks for the custard.

Admittedly you will create a few more spare egg whites which perhaps you can use to make meringues or add them to an omelet.

By using just the white of the egg in the financiers it gives them a beautifully light texture and a slight crispness to the exteriour while keeping soft in the centre.

Financier buns are usually made in their own specially shaped rectangular tins, which resemble gold bars, hence the name.

Here I have made them in a fluted bun tin, which gives a nice finish.

You can use a more simple round bun tin if you wish.

Remember to both lightly grease the tin and then dust flour over the butter.

This will help to ensure that the buns do not stick and is important when you are not using bun cases.

Chocolate and mandarin work very well together.

The zest gives a gentle hint of citrus to the cake.

If you are making caramalised strips of peel to decorate the financiers you may want to keep some aside for the chocolate cake.

The peel will last for a week or so in the fridge.

Mandarin financiers

  • The peel of 4 mandarins, sliced into thin strips
  • 60g of caster sugar
  • 100g of butter
  • 1 tbs of honey
  • 40g plain flour
  • 120g icing sugar
  • 140g of ground almonds
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • 3 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • The zest of 3 mandarins
  • The zest of 1 lemon

Fill a small saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Add the mandarin peel and bring to the boil again, then drain well. Repeat this process. Refill the pan with 120ml of water, add the caster sugar and bring to the boil, stirring well.

Add the peel and reduce the heat until the mixture is simmering and simmer for about fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally until the mixture has thickened to a syrup.

Heat the oven to 220 degrees. Grease and flour a 12 hole bun tin. I used a fluted one but a more standard round tin is also fine to use.

Heat the butter until it turns brown in colour. Strain into a bowl, discarding what is left in the sieve. Whisk a tablespoon of runny honey into the butter and set aside.

Sieve the flour and sugar into a large bowl, add the ground almonds and salt and stir until combined. Stir in the lightly beaten egg whites until well combined, then pour in the browned butter and zest and mix until smooth.

Scoop the cake batter into the prepared tins and bake for six minutes. Turn down the heat to 200 degrees and cook for a further six minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the cakes rest in the oven for another five minutes to firm up.

Remove the tray from the oven and allow to cool for five minutes then gently place the financiers onto a wire rack. Arrange a nest of the caramelised mandarin peel on top of each one once they have slightly cooled. Pour a spoon of syrup over the top.

Custard and caramelised mandarin tart

For the caramelised mandarins:

  • 2 mandarins, sliced across the centre into 5 ml thick slices
  • 120g of caster sugar
  • golden caster sugar for coating

for the pastry:

  • 225g flour
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 140g of cold butter, cut into cubes
  • 55g caster sugar
  • 1 egg

For the filling:

  • 8 egg yolks
  • 95g of golden caster sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod, sliced down the middle
  • 1 large strip of mandarin peel
  • 1/2 tsp of ground nutmeg
  • 245mls of milk
  • 245mls of cream

Fill a small saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Add the mandarin slices and bring to the boil again, then drain well. Repeat this process. Refill the pan with 200ml of water, add the caster sugar and bring to the boil, stirring well.

Add the peel and reduce the heat until the mixture is simmering and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the mixture has thickened to a syrup.

Sprinkle some golden caster sugar onto a plate and coat the mandarin slices while they are still warm. Place on a wire rack to cool.

To make the pastry mix the flour and salt and rub in butter, do not over mix. You want it to look like rough breadcrumbs.

Stir the sugar into the eggs, mix it lightly and add it to the flour mixture with a fork. Bring the pastry together with your hands then rest it for an hour in the fridge or over night, if you wish.

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and line the base of an 8 inch tart tin. Grease and flour around the edges.

Roll the pastry on a flour dusted surface and cut in a circle that will easily fit into the tin. The pastry will need to come right up to the lip of the tin and not be forced into corners. If it is not gently placed it will shrink when baking. Bake the pastry case blind for twenty minutes, using a sheet of parchment and beans or coins.

In the meantime whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl until they are pale in colour.

Add the vanilla, mandarin peel and nutmeg to the milk and cream in a heavy based saucepan. Gently heat the mixture until it is shivering on top — just before it starts to completely boil.

Whisk the cream mixture into the egg yolks in a continuous steady stream. If necessary strain the custard to remove and lumps.

Pour the custard into the prepared tart case and sprinkle a little more nutmeg over the top. Bake for 40 minutes or until there is only the slightest wobble in the center and it is pale golden on the top. Allow the tart to cool completely

before removing it from the tin and topping it with some of the caramalised mandarin slices.

Squidgy chocolate and mandarin cake

  • 280g of dark chocolate, broken into small even sized pieces
  • 180g of butter, cut into small cubes
  • 3 eggs
  • 270g of golden caster sugar
  • 40g of coco powder
  • 80g of plain flour
  • the zest of 2 mandarins
  • 100mls of cream

Pre heat your oven to 180 degrees and grease and line a 9 inch round tin.

Melt 180g of the chocolate and butter in a heavy based saucepan, over a low heat. Set aside the other chocolate for the ganache later. Place the saucepan to the side while you whisk the eggs.

Whisk the eggs and sugar until doubled in volume.

Combine the flour and coco powder.

Fold the chocolate into the eggs, when combined fold in the flour and zest.

Scoop the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. You can not test this in the usual way with a skewer as you do not want to centre to set completely. Just make sure it is not wobbling in the middle and that a shiny layer has formed all over the top to the cake. Leave it to cool in the tin then decorate with chocolate ganache and some of the caramelised peel, similar to that made in the first recipe.


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