Despite originating in the rain forests of Queensland and New South Wales in eastern Australia, macadamia trees were first commercially grown in Hawaii. These slow growing, tropical evergreen trees flower differently from most other fruit and nut trees. The macadamia tree grows racemes; a flower cluster with separate flowers along the stalk at equal distances on a central stem. A 10 cm stalk can carry hundreds of tiny flowers. Each raceme spray of 40-50 flowers produces from 4-15 nutlets which ripen into macadamia nuts. These nuts are coveted for their sweet buttery flavor and creamy texture. It takes machinery to crack the shell, which may explain why they rank as the world’s most expensive nut.
We are fast approaching the Christmas season when all things ‘decadent‘ are up front and center in our dessert plans. Some years ago, I made a chocolate macadamia nut flan for a Christmas company gathering. I baked it in a large tart pan, cut it into eight slices, then cut each slice into four ‘wedges‘. It was a good way to serve such an elegant (& expensive) dessert at a stand-up event.
I was thinking of desserts that could be made and frozen ahead of all the hustle and bustle. So nice to pull such decadence out of the freezer and serve on short notice.
Macadamia nuts pair particularly well with coconut, chocolate and fish. They can be substituted for other nuts measure for measure in most recipes and visa versa without compromising the integrity of the original recipe. Some acceptable choices would be Brazil nuts, hazelnuts and cashews.
While this recipe is a bit time consuming, it is well worth the effort.
Chocolate Macadamia Nut Wedges
In a food processor, combine flour, salt & butter. Using short pulses, process until the mixture resembles oatmeal. Add ice water & pulse quickly until the mixture begins to come together but don't let it actually form a ball. Transfer the mixture to a lightly floured surface & gather it into a ball with your hands. Gently flatten into a smooth disk about 1 1/2-inches thick & wrap it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm enough to roll out, at least an hour.
Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 14-inch circle, about 1/8-inch thick. Fit into an 11-inch round tart/flan pan with a re-movable bottom; trim dough flush with rim. Chill 30 minutes or overnight.
Preheat oven to 400 F. In a large bowl, whisk together egg, sugar & liqueur until combined. Whisk in flour & salt then butter. Stir in chocolate until combined. Pour into chilled pastry shell. Arrange whole nuts on top.
Bake 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 F. & continue baking until crust & filling are golden, about 35 minutes more. If tart is browning to quickly, tent with foil. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
To serve, cut tart into 8 slices then cut each slice into 4 'wedges'.
- You'll notice the chocolate forms a layer on the bottom. If you want it to have a more decadent look, just drizzle a bit more chocolate on top after it's baked.
Created on the island of Jamaica, hummingbird cake was named after the islands national bird, the Red-billed Streamer-tail. These birds are members of the hummingbird family and are only found in Jamaica.
The cake typically has two or three layers with pecans, bananas, crushed pineapple, cinnamon and a cream cheese frosting. Most probably both cake and its name originated as a Jamaican marketing ploy. After Air Jamaica was established in October 1968, the new company chose this beloved hummingbird as its logo. Shortly thereafter, the Jamaica Tourist Board distributed ‘press kits’ to the foreign media. They showcased various ‘local’ dishes, focusing on American consumers, and was intended to attract American visitors to the island.
There are several theories about the origin of the cake’s name. One is that the cake is so delicious it makes you hum with happiness while another is that it is sweet enough for hummingbirds. Yet another theory is that people hover around the cake similar to the way hummingbirds hover around flowers. Foodtimeline.org notes that perhaps it was named after the way the cake draws people in and is eaten quickly similar to the eating pattern of those energetic little fliers.
Unlike traditional banana cakes, the bananas in hummingbird cake are usually left in pieces rather than mashed, providing texture and bursts of flavor along with the pineapple and nuts.
I am making an adaption of the hummingbird cake but using zucchini instead of bananas and drizzling it with a lemon glaze. I’ve also noticed a few other variations that sound real good. One was with grated sweet potato and roasted bananas as well as a rhubarb one — Yum!
Zucchini 'Hummingbird' Squares with Lemon Drizzle
Shred zucchini into a bowl & add 2 Tbsp sugar; stir to combine. Scrape zucchini into a mesh strainer, set over bowl, allowing zucchini to drain for about half an hour. Press to squeeze out excess juice, then place mixture onto paper towels & squeeze to get out as much moisture as you can.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter & flour a loaf pan ( or mini squares pan); set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda & salt. Toss in walnuts & candied peel. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, stir together the remaining sugar, eggs, yogurt, butter, lemon juice, vanilla, drained pineapple & zucchini. Fold the wet mixture into dry ingredients, just until moistened. Scrape the batter into loaf pan, making sure to smooth the top of batter.
Bake for about 50-55 minutes for loaf (25-30 for minis), or until batter tests done when toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow the loaf to cool slightly before drizzling with glaze.
In a bowl, combine powdered sugar & lemon juice, mixing until smooth. Spoon over warm squares allowing drizzle to set up before (cutting &) serving.