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Food Matters: Candied citron, grilling lessons, Shanitas Salsitas

Staff Writer
Austin 360

Ask Addie: candied citron

Fruitcakes are called fruitcakes because they are packed with dried, candied or otherwise preserved fruits. This is true whether they are the German stollen, the Italian panettone, the Scottish Dundee Cake or the famous Collin Street Bakery fruitcakes from our own Corsicana. Many recipes for these cakes and dense breads call for candied citron, which is made from the very thick rind of this exotic citrus fruit, but some, including the Collin Street bakers, insist that the citron adds a bitterness and they leave it out.

I called around to a number of area grocery stores and found candied citron at both Central Market locations and at least one H-E-B (the one at South Congress Avenue and Oltorf Street), and it looks like you can buy candied citron on Amazon.com from the Florida-based Paradise Fruit Co., one of the biggest sellers of candied citron.

If worse comes to worse, you can always make the candied citron using a fresh citron found at a specialty store and Asian market. The most common citron found in Austin stores is the oddly shaped Buddha's Hand, which you can chop finely and boil with equal parts sugar and water until the temperature reaches 230 degrees. Remove the pieces and let them dry on a wire rack.

Dundee Cake

2/3 cup golden raisins

2/3 cup raisins

1/2 cup dried currants

1/2 cup candied citron

1/4 cup candied orange peel

1/4 cup candied lemon peel

2 Tbsp. orange juice

3 Tbsp. Scotch whisky

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. ground allspice

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 Tbsp. grated lemon peel

1 Tbsp. grated orange peel

2/3 cup blanched almonds, divided

1 cup sugar, divided

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

4 extra large eggs

2 Tbsp. orange-flavored liqueur (or Drambuie)

In a 1-quart canning jar mix raisins, currants, citron, candied peels, orange juice and two or three Tbsp. of Scotch whisky. Seal and let sit at least overnight, preferably longer, shaking occasionally (a year is good).

When you're ready to bake the cake and the fruit mixture has soaked, preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grease and flour an 8 inch spring-form pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt, allspice, cinnamon and grated peels.

In a food processor with a knife blade attached, combine 1/3 cup almonds and 1/4 cup sugar. Process until almonds are finely ground. Coat fruit mixture with almond/sugar powder.

In a large bowl with mixer at medium speed, beat 3/4 cup of sugar and the butter until well blended. Increase speed to medium-high and beat 5 minutes, or until light and creamy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Beat in orange liqueur. Reduce speed to low, beat in flour mixture until just completely moistened (batter will be thick). Do not over-beat. Fold fruit and almond mixture into batter.

Pour batter into prepared pan, spreading evenly. Arrange remaining 1/3 cup almonds on top of batter. Do not press the almonds into the batter but lay them on the surface. Bake 2 hours to 2 hours 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cover the pan loosely with foil after the first hour to prevent the top from over-browning.

Cool in pan on wire rack 20 minutes. With a small knife, loosen cake from sides of pan; remove pan side. Cool completely on wire rack. When cool, remove pan bottom and wrap cake in plastic wrap and then in foil. Let cake stand overnight before serving.

(You can infuse the cake with scotch by piercing cooled cake with metal or bamboo skewer several times and pouring a tablespoon or so of Scotch over the cake. Then wrap in plastic wrap or wax paper and foil and put in a cake tin and let rest for two days, repeating as desired.)

- Mark Shannon

A gift to fire up grilling neophytes

You might not be able to afford to give someone an entirely new kitchen remodel or outdoor cooking space this Christmas, but Jed Peters of Firelight Kitchens, who designs and constructs those kinds of things using mostly environmentally friendly and reclaimed materials, offers at-home grilling classes to help you take advantage of the grilling set up you already have. Gift certificates for grilling lessons start at $150 and include a personalized menu, food and supplies so you could turn it into a small party or get-together in the new year. Firelightkitchens.com.

Austinite's salsas are rooted in family tree

As a Jewish girl growing up on the Texas-Mexico border, Shanna Weisfeld likes to joke that her Spanish is better than her Yiddish. "Cultures blend in strange ways," she writes on her website, ShanitasSalsitas.com. "Bar Mitzvahs become pachangas. Tortillas replace bagels. Jalapeños find their way into falafel." Even after she moved to Austin, Weisfeld couldn't shake the flavors of her cross-cultural roots, so she started Shanitas Salsitas, a line of "little salsas" that aren't necessarily meant for chips and are inspired by the family members who taught her the love of food.

Take Bubbie's Haba-Lava, a bright yellow, fiery hot habaneros salsita named after her great-grandmother that Weisfeld makes only when she can use the lemons that come from the trees in her mom's yard in McAllen. On the other end of the heat scale is the garlicky Ki's K.O., which works as a marinade or a dip for vegetables or meat. Hal's Hot Love, named for her great-uncle, is a smooth, hot sauce made with jalapeños and garlic, while one named for grandpa Seymour incorporates the flavors of the North African chile paste, harissa. The refrigerated salsitas cost $7 a jar, but Weisfeld is offering a holiday special of three for $20 or four for $25. Weisfeld ships the salsitas with a minimum order of three jars and she makes deliveries on Tuesdays through Saturdays in much of the Austin area. You can place orders online at ShanitasSalsitas.com, and look for a salsa of the month club to start next year.

Food briefs

• The Austin-based Zhi Tea built its business on selling loose-leaf organic teas online, in retail stores and out of its East Austin store, but after five years, the company has finally added a line of teas sold in biodegradable corn silk bags. Six blends, including the popular Sweet Desert Delight and Turkish Spice Mint, are available in bags as well as loose, and they start at $9.95 for 15 bags both online and in the tea gallery, 4607 Bolm Road.

• In my mind, the only bad thing about apple pies, if there is one, is peeling all those apples. A new pie kit at Central Market makes it quicker to get a homemade apple pie in the oven if you're running short on time this week. Elizabeth Jean's Apple Pie kits ($14.99) contain all the ingredients you need to make an apple caramel pecan, apple crisp or traditional apple pie, including rolled up pie dough, a spice mix and pre-sliced apples that don't turn brown because they are coated in vitamin C.

• After everything that the Bastrop community has gone through this year, the Bastrop Rotary Club wanted to do something to raise money for the nonprofits that have depleted their funds by helping more than 1,600 people who lost their homes. On Dec. 30, the group is hosting the first Men Who Cook at the Bastrop Convention and Exhibit Center. Admission costs $35 in advance or $45 at the door. You also can pay $120 for a group of four, and guests will get to sample food from a number of area chefs and home cooks including Bastrop Mayor Terry Orr, Preston Higgins of Baxter's on Main, Mike Herman of Hasler Brothers Steakhouse, and 423rd District judge Chris Duggan. You can buy tickets online at bastroprotary.com or by mailing a check to Rotary Club of Bastrop County, P.O. Box 682, Bastrop, TX 78602, and tickets will be waiting at will call. For reservations or information, contact Gina Nesloney at 512-332-9880 or by email at gnevents@austin.rr.com. Nesloney says that they are still seeking donations from local food artisans, cooking stores and restaurants for both the silent and live auctions at the event.

• For the next two Saturdays, the Sustainable Food Center farmers' markets downtown and in Sunset Valley will merge together. On Christmas Eve, the combined market will take place at Toney Burger Center in Sunset Valley from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and on New Year's Eve, the Sunset Valley market will merge with the downtown market at Republic Square Park. On the first Saturday of the New Year, the markets will return to their regular locations. The Barton Creek and Cedar Park farmers markets are open for regular hours on both Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. The Lakeway Commons Farmer's Market will be closed on Christmas Day and New Year's Day, and the HOPE Farmers Market will be closed on Christmas Day but open on New Year's Day,

My husband, Mark, bakes Dundee Cakes as gifts during the Christmas season. It is a light-colored Scottish tea cake with three kinds of candied peels and three kinds of raisins. We've had those who dislike fruitcake go for seconds.

This year we have had trouble obtaining candied citron. Our attempts to search for information only connect with other people asking why they cannot get citron. One website, Barry Farms, simply states they can't get it from their supplier. We tried ordering from Economy Candy and received a call the following day, also stating that their supplier cannot fulfill their orders. Since we set the candied peels and raisins to soak in scotch a year in advance, the only solution would be to split the candied citron amount between the candied lemon peel and candied orange peel. Can you find out what's going on?

- Mary Shannon

Austin Cooking academy offering 3 scholarships

The Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary Arts, which recently expanded its location at 1700 S. Lamar Blvd., is again offering scholarships for its professional chef training program. A $5,000 scholarship is available in each of the following three categories: yoga teachers and studio owners; health-care professionals including nurses, therapists, nutritionists, dieticians, diabetes educators and other professionals in the health-care field; and individuals specializing in the field of macrobiotics. The deadline to apply for the scholarships is Jan. 27, and the next session, a 900-hour program that is composed of six months in the classroom and six months in assistant hours and externships, starts on Feb. 20. For more information, email info@naturalepicurean.com or call 476-2276.