Prunes & Chocolate

prunes.jpgI am addicted to prunes and dark chocolate together. OH YUMMERS! There is a typical wintery dish from Piedmont that involves wild boar, cocoa and prunes that is just to die for. I’ve seen people do a garnish for this dish where you pit the prunes, insert a chunk of dark chocolate, roll them in bread crumbs and fry them. (Crunchy bread crumbs, plump fruit, molten chocolate…) I feel it would make a great snack or pre-dessert as well! I’ve been wanting to make a dark chocolate fondue to dip my new favorite fruit in for awhile now…

Prunes are so flavorful and so under-appreciated. Today I had a snack of prunes & chocolate with a new chocolate bar from Perugia that incorporates little pieces of cocoa nibs. It was highly enjoyable with the extra crunch of the nibs.

I love this great combination of savory and sweet!

In other prune news, a couple of weeks ago Luca made a pot roast with prunes in the sauce that was awesome. I’ll get him to post the recipe.

In honor of the prune, I leave you this WONDERFUL recipe for Prune Armagnac Cake, which was published in either Gourmet or Bon Appettit several years ago. They say you can substitute the armagnac with cognac or grappa barricato, but I’ve tried all three and the armagnac version is 10 times better. Don’t be afraid to open a new bottle of armagnac just to use in this recipe–it will keep for a long time, and I guarantee you’ll want to make the cake again soon!) This cake is great for both breakfast and dessert. It’s nice and big too, and freezes wonderfully, so put half in the freezer to save for a rainy day if you can’t eat it all in one weekend. Enjoy!

Prune Armagnac Cake
16 Servings
Pitted prunes 12 oz. (Save yourself the work and buy them already pitted!)
Water 2 cups
Armagnac 1/2 cup

Vegetable oil 1 1/2 cups
Sugar 2 1/4 cups
Eggs 5 ea.
Vanilla 2 Tbsp.
All Purpose Flour 3 cups
Baking Soda 1 Tbsp.
Cinnamon 2 1/2 tsp.
Nutmeg 1 tsp.
Allspice 1 tsp.
Cardammon 1/2 tsp. (if you don’t have it, don’t worry, it’s great without this spice too!)
Cloves 1/2 tsp.
Salt 1 tsp.
Buttermilk 1 1/2 cups (if you don’t have buttermilk, add 2 tsp. of lemon juice or vinegar to the milk and stir)

Sugar 1 1/2 cups
Butter 3/4 cups (1 1/2 sticks)
Armagnac 1/2 cup
Light Corn Syrup or Honey 2 Tbsp.
Lemon Juice 2 Tbsp
Baking Soda 1 tsp.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. Butter & flour a 12 cup bundt pan. In a medium-sized sauce pan, place the prunes, water and armagnac and simmer until fruit is tender, about 15 minutes. Drain prunes reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid for glaze (I hate to throw the rest of that great sauce away–if you’re using the cake for dessert, save all of the sauce and use it for garnish!) If you feel like it and have time, coarsely chop the prunes, if not, simmer the prunes a little longer so that they’re soft enough to break up with a spoon during mixing.

2. Beat oil, sugar, eggs & vanilla in a large bowl until well blended. In a separate bowl (or on a piece of parchment/foil), combine flour, soda, spices and salt.

3. Mix dry ingredients into the oil mixture. Add buttermilk, beating batter just until smooth. Fold in chopped prunes, distributing evenly throughout batter. Transfer batter to prepared baking pan (it’s a big cake!). Bake until tester inserted in center comes out clean–about 1 hour & 5 minutes.

4. Towards the end of the baking time, prepare the glaze (you want the glaze to be warm when the cake comes out of the oven). Combine the 1/4 cup of reserved prune cooking liquid, sugar, butter, armagnac, corn syrup, lemon juice and baking soda in a med-large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly (about 2 minutes).

5. When the cake comes out of the oven and is still nice and hot, pierce in several places (poke the devil out of it!!) with a long wooden skewer (or similar instrument of torture). Brush/pour/spoon the glaze onto the cake covering thoroughly. Make several passes to use up all the glaze. Cool at least 30 minutes before turning out of pan. Bon Appettito!!