Despite being a microstate (a term I did not know existed, but I like it!), Andorra is unique in that it has two co-princes; namely the president of France and the Bishop of Urgell. This means that François Hollande is not only premier of France, but also an elected reigning monarch of Andorra. As a result he is the only monarch in the world to be elected by the common people – granted not those of the country he rules, but still!
Andorran cuisine shares much of its basis with Catalan cuisine, and so will often seem very Spanish in preparation. However, one thing that sprung out at me was the prevalence of preparations that combine both sweet and savoury foods, an idea which I was excited about the possibility of trying out in cake form. My first thought was to combine this idea with a recipe for coques, a sweet dough recipe, including fruit and a sweet almond picada (a herb and nut mixture similar to a pesto, but without cheese).
I was unable to find a suitable coques recipe so the following recipe is adapted from Nigella Lawson’s How To Eat. I used the basic dough recipe, spread the dough with a sweet almond and rosemay picada and topped this with a layer of peaches. Crumbled amaretti biscuits are crumbled on top before the cake is baked in the oven. Lovely hot or cold, this can also be created with other fruits – if you have access to blackcurrants these make a delicious addition. I love this as a breakfast cake, or eating a slice with a cup of tea in the evening – really I could eat it anytime!
[Note on yeast – the first time I made this, it didn’t rise. Still tasted delicious but wasn’t quite as soft and pillowy as I would have hoped for. It turned out that the yeast I was using was too old, and therefore did not react as it should have done. You can test to see if you yeast will work effectively by dissolving it in lukewarm water – if bubbles form after about 3 minutes then it is alive and raring to go! Otherwise, sadly it is no longer with you and will not help in your cake-making quests!
Andorran-Inspired Peach and Almond Coque
- 400 gram(s) strong white bread flour
- ½ teaspoon(s) salt
- 50 gram(s) caster sugar
- 1 packet(s) yeast (easy blend, about 3g)
- 2 medium egg(s)
- ½ teaspoon(s) vanilla extract
- ½ lemon (juice)
- ¼ teaspoon(s) ground cinnamon
- 125 ml milk (luke warm)
- 50 gram(s) butter (softened)
- 24 blanched almonds
- 1 spring of rosemary
- 1 slice stale bread, toasted, crust removed
- 1 1/2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon amaretto
- 2 teaspoons of water
- 4 peaches
- 100g/4oz Flour
- 75g/3oz Butter or margarine
- 75g/3oz Sugar
- 50g/2oz crushed Amaretti Biscuits
Place 350g of flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a bowl and set aside. In a different bowl, beat the eggs before adding them to the lukewarm milk, along with the vanilla extract, lemon zest and cinnamon. Gradually start to add the liquids to the flour mixture, mixing them to form a smooth dough (You may need to add more flour if it is too sticky). Add the softened butter and knead for 10 minutes, until smooth. Cover and leave in a warm room for about an hour until doubled in size, before punching down and stretching into a baking tin (greased and lined). Leave for 15-20 minutes to prove (a final rise aimed at ensuring a final fermentation of the yeast) before brushing with beaten egg
To make the picada, process the blanched almonds until finely ground. Add in the amaretto, water, cocoa, rosemary leaves and the slice of bread, and process to a puree, adding a little more amaretto if it is a bit dry – you are aiming for a smooth paste. Spread the mixture on top of the dough.
Make the crumble by working the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles rolled oats. Add the sugar and crushed amaretti biscuits and mix to combine. Chop the peaches and use to top the dough, before covering with the crumble topping. Bake in an oven preheated to 200°C/Gas Mark 6 for 15 minutes, before turning the oven down to 180°C/Gas Mark 4 and baking for another 20 minutes. The dough should be golden brown and the topping will be set (not crunchy). Leave to cool, and cut into large pieces for ultimate enjoyment!