For Kevin Wenzel, owner of Wiseman House Chocolates in Heiko, winter citrus evokes childhood memories of a 4-H food show. One item he remembers making—with some parental guidance—the orange pecan. “My mother did most of the work on tasting the oranges, and this was before the small planes existed,” says the chef and chocolatier. They scored a second-place bar on the 1976 show, and Wenzel says his mom was grateful they didn’t take first. “My mother was relieved by the red tape because the blue tape would have made me proud of what I didn’t really cook.”
But his sister Kara swept the culinary council. “She made her own plate, knew the food groups, and both years we did the 4-H Food Show, she received blue strips,” Wenzel says. “She now runs the family business, Hidden Valley Country Store in Holland in Hamilton, where I grew up making and creating new sandwiches, bagels, stir-fries, and batches of peanut brittle.”
Those years he spent helping out the family business (along with some extra training at school) led to his own business. In 1996, Wenzel Wiseman opened the House in Hico, where he made handcrafted chocolates from Texas whiskey truffles to toffee melts. They put on an offer worth a thousand blue ribbons.
There’s no chocolate in Wenzel’s Texas Citrus Rustic cake, but there is an abundance of refreshing citrus. “I don’t make this cake for sweetness, but for flavour, which is what I want from my chocolate here at Wiseman House—full flavour, not too focused on desserts,” says Wenzel.
Texas Citrus Rustic Cake
1 medium orange, or 2 small tangerines or tangelos
1 large lemon
½ cup Texas olive oil
6 ounces raw almonds
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
4 large eggs, room temperature
½ teaspoon sea salt or pink Himalayan salt
1 1/4 cup granulated white sugar
- Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Put all of the citrus fruits in a bowl with enough water to cover the fruit. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes to soften the fruit. Pour in the water and let the fruit cool down to room temperature. You can pour cold water over the fruit to speed up the cooling process. Remove the seeds and then place the fruit along with the peel in a food processor and puree until smooth. While processing, slowly drip olive oil to make a paste. Lift the paste and set aside. Wipe out the food processor.
- Place the almonds on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 20 minutes or so. To test, break an almond in half and check for toasted color. Once roasted, remove the almonds from the oven and let them cool.
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees. When the almonds have cooled, add them to a food processor and blend until they reach a smooth texture similar to sand. Add the all-purpose flour and baking powder to a food processor and mix together.
- In a bowl, beat eggs with salt until foamy, adding sugar a little at a time while whisking. (Alternatively, use an stand mixer to beat the eggs, then slowly add the sugar.) Beat until the sugar is mostly dissolved.
- Fold in orange paste. Then add the flour mixture. Don’t get overly confused. Pour into one 10-inch or two 5-inch pan and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the pie comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack until the sides curl away. This cake tastes better after it has cooled.