Since I've joined Tuesdays With Dorie - and this is only my fourth week as an official participant - I've gained approximately 700 pounds and the eternal devotion of my sugar-addicted children. I just hope the other members have worked out some sort of group discount rate with a reputable weight loss program. Maybe...Tuesdays With Dorie...and Thursdays With Jenny...or something along those lines. Just curious.
Anyway, all of my own self-control issues aside, this is a really interesting cake. The crunch of the polenta and the fig seeds...
the fragrance of the lemon zest...
and the seductive sweetness from the honey...
are all woven together in a moist, golden crumb.
The cake is, at first glance, rather plain, and my initial urge was to figure out how to add to it. How to pretty it up. But then...even though I came up with a few lovely ideas...I couldn't do it. Not the soft dollop of chantilly cream and a few thin and crunchy curls of lemon zest...not a scoop of lemon sorbet...not even a dusting of confectioners' sugar. They would have looked nice...but really, this cake doesn't need them.
And speaking of "this cake" - the Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake for this week's post was chosen by Caitlin of Engineer Baker and can be found in Dorie Greenspan's Baking From My Home to Yours on pgs 200-201.
I made mine Sunday morning, ably assisted by my petite sous baker, Julia.
The cake was easy to put together, and though the recipe calls for a 10 1/2 inch tart pan, I used my trusty 8" model plus a 6" springform pan and things worked out just fine.
Let's make a cake, shall we?
About 16 moist, plump dried Mission or Kadota figs, stemmed
1 cup medium-grain polenta or yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup ricotta
1/3 cup tepid water
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup honey
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 stick (8 T) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus 1 T, cut into bits and chilled
2 large eggs
Hang on...I'm missing something. Oh yes...forgot to put the lemon zest in the picture.
Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 10 1/2-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom and put it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.
Check that the figs are, indeed, moist and plump. If they are the least bit hard, toss them into a small pan of boiling water and steep for a minute, then drain and pat dry.
If the figs are large (bigger than a bite), snip them in half.
Whisk the polenta, flour, baking powder and salt together.
Working with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the ricotta and water together on low speed until very smooth.
With the mixer at medium speed, add the sugar, honey and lemon zest
and beat until light.
Beat in the melted butter, then add the eggs one at a time, beating until the mixture is smooth. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are fully incorporated.
You'll have a sleek, smooth, pourable batter.
Pour about one third of the batter into the pan and scatter over the figs.
Pour in the rest of the batter, smooth the top with a rubber spatula, if necessary, and dot the batter evenly with the chilled bits of butter.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
The cake should be honey brown and pulling away just a little from the sides of the pan, and the butter will have left light-colored circles in the top. Transfer the cake to a rack and remove the sides of the pan after about 5 minutes. Cool to warm, or cool completely.
And that's all she wrote.
Now, I will say that the butter didn't exactly leave light colored circles...but I also didn't cut the butter in uniformly tiny bits. My bits were rather haphazard, both in size and placement atop the cake. So maybe, if I wanted to do anything different, I would improve my butter bit technique.
But I don't really think it's a huge deal.
I used the 6" cake (Julia's cake) as the tasting cake, because I wanted to use the larger one for my slice-of-the-cake photos.
I had a small piece, and gave each of the kids a small piece. Once they were in the dining room with theirs, and I was still chewing my small portion, I quickly sliced another thin wedge for myself and, yes, I gobbled it down shamelessly.
The kids seemed to enjoy the cake, too.
In order to stop myself from eating the rest of the small cake, I quickly sliced it up into wedges, arranged the slices on a pretty little plate, and race-walked them across the street to share with our friends. Based on the response, I think they'll remain our friends for a while.
I left the final photos (with the bigger cake) for Monday, and it was nice to have a legitimate reason to cut a standard-sized slice of cake
after photographing it from various angles
and with various props,
eat the whole thing myself.
I think I'm gonna have to bring some of that large cake across the street, too.
I could use the exercise.