For Kevin Wenzel, owner of Wiseman House Chocolates in Hico, winter citrus evokes childhood memories of a 4-H food show. One of the things he remembers making – with some parental guidance – is orange candied pecans. “My mother did most of the work with peeling oranges, and that was before Microplanes existed,” says the chef and chocolate maker. They won second place at the show in 1976 and Wenzel says his mother was grateful that they did not finish first. “My mother was relieved by the red ribbon because the blue ribbon would make me proud of what I didn’t really cook.”
However, his sister Kara swept the culinary board. “She made her own food, she knew food groups, and both years we did a 4-H food show, she got blue ribbons,” says Wenzel. “He now runs the Dutch family’s Hidden Valley Country Store in Hamilton, where I grew up making and making new sandwiches, baking bread and mixing fondants and rags of peanut.”
Those years spent helping the family business (along with some other training at school) led to his own business. In 1996, Wenzel opened the Wiseman House in Hico, where he produces handmade chocolates from truffles with Texas whiskey to caramel melts. They performed a show worth thousands of blue ribbons.
There is no chocolate in Wenzel’s Texas Citrus Rustic Cake, but there is a lot of spicy citrus. “I’m not making this cake for sweets,” says Wenzel, “but for taste, which is what I want from my chocolates here at Wiseman House – fully flavored, not focused on sweets.”
Texas citrus rustic cake
1 medium orange or two small tangerines or tangelo
1 large lemon
⅔ a cup of Texas olive oil
6 ounces of raw almonds
1 cup universal flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 large eggs, room temperature
Ž teaspoons of sea salt or Himalayan rose salt
1 ½ cup granulated white sugar
- Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Put all the citrus in a pot with enough water to cover the fruit. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and cook for 30 minutes to soften the fruit. Drain the water and let the fruit cool to room temperature. To speed up the cooling process, you can pour cold water over the fruit. Remove the seeds and then place the fruit with the skin in a food processor and mix until smooth. Slowly drip olive oil during processing to form a paste. Remove the paste and set aside; clear food processor.
- Place the almonds on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes. To test, break the almonds in half and check that they are toasted in color. Once toasted, remove the almonds from the oven and allow to cool.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. When the almonds have cooled, add them to the food processor and pulsate until they reach a fine sand-like structure. Add universal flour and baking powder to the food processor and mix.
- In a bowl, beat the eggs with salt into the foam, then add the sugar a little while whisking. (Alternatively, use a stand mixer to beat the eggs, then slowly add the sugar.) Beat until the sugar is almost dissolved.
- Stir in the orange paste. Then mix in the flour mixture. Do not stir. Pour into one 10-inch or two 5-inch molds and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until a toothpick stuck in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a grill until the sides peel off. This cake tastes better after cooling.