I am a horrible sucker for cheap cookbooks — they lure me in with their big colorful photos and promise of a few good recipes. The books are not written by any particular expert, merely ‘edited by’ a staffer with a passing interest in food.
The books are strategically placed into the bargain bins. And, I realize they are mass-produced for placement into such areas for those culinary minds looking for a few cheap thrills. Yet, I can’t resist. I purchased the The Complete Book of Baking from such a bin several years ago, the temptation being the sweet polenta cake. It’s been on my to-do list for some time and now I am able to mark it off.
The cake intrigued me mostly due to the use of polenta to make a cake. The batter contains almond flavoring and lemon zest along with a few currants, then it’s topped with fresh apples and sliced almonds. To ensure it is rich, the batter is drizzled with melted butter and sugar before being placed into the oven — how could I not resist making this?
The result is a moist yet dense cake boasting a light lemony-almond flavor. I’ll admit, the currants do nothing for this other than to create specs in the cake. They are lost and useless. The top is interesting, slightly caramelized apples with a crunchy sugar crust adds a nice sweet texture. The cake itself has a large and firm crumb, a stronger texture than typical cakes. I enjoyed the change of pace and found it rustic, like something a friend’s grandmother would make at a holiday dinner.
Sweet polenta cake
3/4 cup flour
1/2 polenta (or cornmeal)
1 tsp baking powder
zest from 1 lemon
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup milk
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/4 cup currants soaked in hot water for 20 mins and drained
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 apples peeled, thinly sliced
1/4 cup slivered almonds
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease and flour a 9″ springform pan. In a bowl, add the flour, polenta, lemon zest, baking powder, and salt. Stir to combine.
In a separate mixing bowl, beat eggs and 1/2 cup sugar, then add milk and almond extract. Combine currants and 4 tablespoons butter. Slowly add the dry ingredients. When blended, pour into prepared pan.
Arrange apples in concentric circles on top of the batter. Sprinkle with slivered almonds. In a saucepan, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Pour over the apples, then sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup sugar.
Bake until the cake is puffed and golden, about 45 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes, then remove from the springform pan.
Although it was gone before these pics were taken, I created a topping from: 1/2 cup sour cream, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/2 tsp almond extract. A dollop of this mixture adds a nice sweet-tang.
I used polenta that had a slightly larger texture than cornmeal, which came through loud and clear. You can see the bits of polenta and the texture is defiently firmer. I kind of like it tough because it does stand out as something different.
Next time, I would likely remove the currants. I might try doing something different with the apples or possibly another fruit. The apples were tender but kind of blah — they didn’t stand up to the dominate flavors of lemon and almond. Once again, they were ok but kind of useless. Don’t get me wrong, the cake is quite good.
I need to see what’s next in this book. It’s a generic baking book but all of the recipes have a very international flair to them, but the book isn’t marketed in this way. There’s Guiness Cake, or maybe Lekach, a Jewish honey cake. Hmmm, I need to give this some though … and, I also need to give some thought to the MeMe I received. Yikes … what info shall I divulge about myself?