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Macerate Citrus (And Make This Trifle) Before Winter's End

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This article is brought to you by our friends at Electrolux as part of an ongoing series focusing on seasonal ingredients. Today, macerating citrus with an acidic bedfellow: vinegar.

If you've ever macerated berries with balsamic vinegar at the height of summer, you're familiar with the syrupy mess, the sweet-sour puddle, that the fruit collapses into once the mixture has melded for a minute (or hour). The berries just barely retain their shape, their colors intensify, and everything around them swirls into a complexly-flavored bowl for dousing any dessert: ice cream, cake, pudding—really, anything.

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The process of macerating fruit—think marinating for the sweet set—is loose and lithe, with very few guidelines. It's one of the most basic Not Recipes there is: Just haphazardly toss some amount of liquid—vinegar, liqueur, lemon juice, or even a simple sugar syrup—with fruit and watch it become something wholly new.

Photo by Mark Weinberg

But what to do when it's not summer, when fresh fruit isn't sneakily jumping into your shopping basket at any moment? Turn to citrus, especially during the tricky transition from winter to spring.

While any of you still bundled tight may be gleefully anticipating the arrival of rhubarb or strawberries in early spring, don't wish the blood oranges and Meyer lemons away too quickly—citrus is prime for macerating, and then experimenting, with.

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And among all of the beautiful citrus out there, from pomelos to finger limes to tangerines and friends, kumquats are one of the most intriguing. They're also the furthest from my mind to use in the kitchen (beyond eating one by one or mixing into marmalades).

Photos by Mark Weinberg

So to combat the last of the winter blues, I gave myself a little challenge: Make a dessert with macerated kumquats and use the oven (two elements that take advantage of winter). What began in my mind as an olive oil cake with kumquat compote morphed into an upside-down cake with macerated kumquats on the bottom, which then turned into a trifle with sponge cake and whipped cream—an amalgam of Julia Child's butter sponge cake, Alice Medrich's white chocolate whipped cream, and macerated, roasted kumquats.

Because I like the whisper of Champagne vinegar, I used that as my liquid, adding a few tablespoons and a sprinkling of sugar to sliced kumquats. To make things really juicy, I let the citrus sit while I prepped the rest of the trifle ingredients: Maceration is important for the end texture of the kumquats—because the vinegar and sugar relax the citrus, the fruit comes out of the oven juicy rather than dry.

Photo by Mark Weinberg

What I love about making this trifle is that every step moves you forward, fitting together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. While you let the kumquats macerate, you can prepare the whipped cream base and the sponge cake batter. Then, while the whipped cream base cools, the kumquats roast and the sponge cake bakes simultaneously. Once things come out of the oven and have time to cool, you can whip the whipped cream into shape.

Roasted Kumquat Trifle
Roasted Kumquat Trifle

Layer it up and what results is tangy and sweet, creamy and chewy, all jumbled with what I think is one of the best cakes I've ever tried my hand at—because, well, Julia knew what she was doing.

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Roasted Kumquat Trifle

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Serves 4 to 6, depending on serving size (you may have some cake leftover)
  • 18 ounces kumquats, sliced
  • 4 tablespoons Champagne vinegar, more or less to taste
  • 2/3 cup plus 4 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
  • White Chocolate Whipped Cream (https://food52.com/recipes/26463-white-chocolate-whipped-cream)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 egg whites
  • pinches salt
  • 3/4 cup cake flour

This article was brought to you by Electrolux, Food52's test kitchen partner. Electrolux is all about great taste and the appliances to help you make beautiful meals in your own kitchen. Learn more here.

Tags: vinegar, acid, kumquats, julia child, alice medrich, whipped cream, trifle