Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Single Malt Whisky Cake

Before I give you a terrific recipe that's sure to please (even if you don't imbibe in the Scottish nectar), I want to give you a wee bit o' history on the amber elixir.

First off is why you see whisky spelled two ways; one with an "ey" and one with just a "y".

The one true way to be certain that you are spending your money on a Scottish malt is whisky is spelled without an "e". In my opinion, as frugal as the Scots tend to be, they may have used this spelling so they are assured of getting a Scottish malt and not an Irish or American blend. No sense in wasting cold, hard-earned cash on something that's not the real deal, right?

But, Canadians, New Zealanders and the Japanese (honest!) also spell it the same as the Scottish, so be sure to read where it was distilled.

A Scottish single malt is always made from malted barley, whereas "whiskey" can be made from unmalted corn and other grains. The barley malt for Scotch whisky is first dried over fires that have been stoked with dried peat (a form of compacted grass and heather compost that is harvested from the moors). The peat smoke adds the distinctive smoky tang to the taste of the malt whisky, as does what type of barrel it's aged in.

The smoky-tasting Scotches tend to be aged in an oak barrel that's been smoked inside. Others are aged in sherry casks, lending its flavor to the brew.

Scotch Whisky Regions

The Highlands consist of the portion of Scotland north of a line from Dundee on the North Sea coast in the east to Greenock on the Irish Sea in the west, including all of the islands off the mainland except for Islay. Highland malt whiskies cover a broad spectrum of styles. They are generally aromatic, smooth and medium bodied, with palates that range from lushly complex to floral delicacy. The subregions of the Highlands include Speyside; the North, East and West Highlands; the Orkney Isles; and the Western Islands (Arran, Jura, Mull, and Skye).

The Lowlands encompass the entire Scottish mainland south of the Highlands except the Kintyre Peninsula where Campbeltown is located. Lowland malt whiskies are light bodied, relatively sweet, and delicate.

Islay is an island off the west coast. Traditional Islay malt whiskies are intensely smoky and pungent in character with a distinctive iodine or medicinal tang that is said to come from sea salt permeating the local peat that is used to dry the barley malt.

Campbeltown is a port located on the tip of the Kintyre Peninsula on the southwest coast that has its own distinctive spicy and salt-tinged malt whiskies.

I brought the infamous cake to an Equinox party last week (no, it wasn't one of those Pagan rituals where everyone dances around a bonfire naked. Thankfully!), and a young girl all of ten thought it was gingerbread.

Until she tasted it.

She handed it directly to her father, and said, "Dad, I don't think I'm supposed to be eating this."

He seemed to enjoy the fact that it wasn't gingerbread very much, as he was on his third piece when he told me the story.

Anyway, the following recipe has been praised by many, including wine distributors at the Wine and Food Festival in Blue Hill. I'll be there again October 18th at the Arborvine restaurant from 11:00-3:00 if you're in the neighborhood. One might ask why I would be a part of such a festival, and my answer is that my books sell best when found in places where a book is least expected to be. Plus, I can cook, and enjoy seeing the looks on people's faces when I ask them to sample my Single Malt Whisky Cake.

Single Malt Whisky Cake

2/3 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup water
1 stick real butter (Don't substitute here, please. Forego the waist for a real treat!)
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. nutmeg
1  1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 cup Single Malt Whisky (I've used Dalmore, Dalwhinnie, Glenfiddich and Glendronach with good results)
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Cover raisins with the water in a small pan and simmer until only 2 tbsps. of water remain. Let cool a bit.

Cream butter and sugar; add egg.

Stir in dry ingredients.

Add rest of liquids (including water from raisins) and mix well.

Fold in raisins and pour into a buttered 8 inch pan.

Bake at 350┬║ for 30-40 minutes.


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