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Saturday, May 21, 2011


Excellent Ingredient of the Week
Mace is the bright red, lacy covering of the nutmeg seed shell. The mace is removed from the shell and its broken parts are known as blades and then ground. Because the yield of mace is much less than nutmeg’s it has greater value. A pile of fruit large enough to make one hundred pounds of nutmeg produces a single pound of mace. In its natural state, mace is a bright crimson lace up to 1-1/2 inches long, encasing the brown nutmeg in irregular, fleshy lobes. As it is dried, it develops its charcteristic aroma but loses its bright red color. Mace from the West Indies is a yellowish brown color and with fewer holes than mace from East Indian nutmegs which are more orange when dried. It smells similar to nutmeg, but stronger and more exotic. It is more intense and slightly sweeter than nutmeg. A small amount will enchance many recipes, adding fragrance without imposing too much flavour.

Mace works especially well with milk dishes like custards and cream sauces. It contributes to flavouring light-coloured cakes and pastries, especially donuts. It can enhance clear and creamed soups and casseroles, chicken pies and sauces. Adding some to mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes creates a more interesting side dish. Some beverages improve with a little mace, especially chocolate drinks and tropical punches. I like to put a pinch into sauteed onions liver and sauteed apples. Mace is also great in carrot soup. I also use it in place of nutmeg in spice cake. So go to the store and pick up a little and start experimenting.It could be your new secret ingredient.

Here is a great old fashioned recipe for a mace cake from Gourmet magazine.

4 large eggs
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1 cup whole milk
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 13- by 9-inch baking pan, knocking out excess flour. Beat eggs with 2 cups sugar in a large bowl using an electric mixer at high speed until tripled in volume and thick enough to form a ribbon that takes 2 seconds to dissolve into batter when beater is lifted, 7 to 8 minutes in a stand mixer or 14 to 16 with a handheld. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and 1 tablespoon mace.

Bring milk and butter to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, then remove from heat. Add flour mixture to egg mixture, stirring until just combined. Stir in hot milk mixture until combined (batter will be thin). Stir together remaining 1/2 cup sugar and remaining 1/2 teaspoon mace in a small bowl.

Pour batter into baking pan and sprinkle evenly with mace sugar. (Sugar will form a crust as cake bakes.) Bake until pale golden and a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack until warm, at least 30 minutes. Cut into squares and serve warm or at room temperature.