The name reads really well – the sort of high maintenance dish that requires hours of dedicated work in the kitchen. The truth is that it is a lot easier to bake than it sounds… After all, it is a slightly modified pound cake, with 2 very easy elements on the side. The cake itself has a pleasantly crumbly and grainy texture, ideal to combine with the rosemary infused honey. The creamy mascarpone sauce just makes everything come together. Try it with a double expresso for even better results…
Polenta cake with mascarpone and rosemary (adapted from a Eddie Russel recipe found in Food and Wine Magazine)
- 1 3/4 cup (=220g) flour, plus more for dusting
- 1/2 cup (=65g) polenta
- Pinch of salt
- 2 sticks (=220g) of unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup (110g) of sugar
- 6 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 cup honey
- 3 tablespoons water
- 2 rosemary sprigs
- 1 cup (=225g) mascarpone, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup (200mL) heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
Preheat the oven to 325°F (= 190°C). Butter and flour a metal loaf pan. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the polenta and salt.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the softened butter with the sugar at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between additions. Beat in the vanilla extract and lemon juice.
Gradually add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, beating the batter at low speed until just incorporated. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for about 1 hour, until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.
Turn the cake onto a rack and let it cool until warm.
In a small saucepan, combine the honey with the water and rosemary sprigs and simmer over moderate heat for 2 minutes. Let the syrup cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes. Discard the rosemary sprigs. While the cake is still warm, lightly brush the top of the cake with the rosemary syrup.
In a medium bowl, whisk the mascarpone with the cream, sugar and vanilla-bean seeds.
Using a serrated knife, cut the cake into thick slices and transfer to plates. Top each slice with a large dollop of mascarpone, drizzle with the rosemary syrup and serve.
Can gluten free cake be as good as “normal” cake? Well, it depends… in this case, it was. It is also a very long list of ingredients to make it taste like and feel like cake. Worthwhile the effort? Well, yes. It was pretty good cake, with a unusual texture.
The beasts My lovely co-workers had it all in a single meeting… I still have to let them know this was a specially healthy version of what they usually get…
Carrot cake (gluten free; adapted from Dias com Mafalda blog)
- 100g of brown or unrefined sugar
- 100mL of vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
- 3 slightly beaten eggs
- 3 grated carrots
- 1 grated apple
- 100g of crated cocunut
- 100g raisin
- the zest of one orange and 1 tablespoon of orange juice
- 175g gluten-free flour
- 1 teaspoon of baking soda
- 1 teaspoon of baking powder
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
- 1/2 of powdered clove.
Grease a loaf tin and preheat the oven to 180oC
Combine the sugar, oil, vanilla and eggs with wooden spoon. Fold in the grated carrots, apple and coconut together with the raisins, the orange zest and juice. On top of this mix, sift the flour, the spices, baking-powder and baking soda.
Put the batter in the tin and transfer to the oven. Let it bake for about 20min. Test with a knife before taking it out – it should come out dry.
Take it out from the tin while still hot, and let it cool down before serving.
A couple of years latter, with a different camera and the right almond meal… St James cake, take 2. Also, it doubles up as my birthday cake. A far cry from the formidable cakes years of the past few years, but still a sophisticated, luscious and almondy affair to put on the table with a glass of prosseco.
Almond cake (adapted from Ferran Adrià’s The Family Meal)
- Baking spray or butter and flour as required
- 3 large eggs
- 150g of sugar
- 150g of almond meal (make sure you are using the off white mixture, made with pealed almonds)
- 1 pinch ground cinnamon
- Icing sugar as required
1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Coat a baking tray with baking spray (or butter and flour). It has to be a large one, like a 40 cm round one)
2. In a large bowl, beat the whole eggs and the sugar until you have a pale yellow foamy mixture
3. Add the the ground almond and the cinnamon to the egg mixture. Fold it slowly in the same direction with a wooden spoon, until you obtain a fluffy and airy mixture.
4. Pour the mixture in the tray (it should be must be about 1.5cm deep)
5. Put in the oven for about 20min, or until golden brown. Make sure it doesn’t stick to the sides of tray when you take it out of the tray.
6. Sprinkle icing sugar on top of it before serving.
It was a totally random purchase, in an airport bookstore. I had a couple of minutes to grab a book to read in the plane and this one just got my attention. It looked like yet another expat experience with yet more live changing experiences inducing snooze fest. For extra cynicism, I only found broken hearts in the city of love… But it were the recipes that caught my attention. A love story with recipes? Never mind it is even in Paris – that is totally worthwhile reading. And it was… It is a quick, funny and light read. For a quick sum up of traditional home style french dishes, it is also excellent. I feel I will come back to this book over and over again.
- 120g of all purpose flour (about 1 and 1/4 cup)
- 1 tablespoon of baking powder
- 200g sliced bacon or pancetta
- 4 eggs
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 120 mL olive oil (about 1/2 cup)
- 120 mL full fat milk (about 1/2 cup)
- 8 soft dried figs
- 2 tablespoons of finely chopped parsley
- 100g of grated Gruyere cheese
Pre-heat the stove to 160oC
Sift the flour with the baking powder to a bawl.
Butter and flour a baking dish (or use a non stick baking spray). Cover the bottom of the dish with parchment paper.
In a small frying pan, fry the bacon strips until all fat is gone. Take them out of the pan and pat them dry with kitchen paper.
In a medium size bawl, beat the eggs with the salt. When they are mixed, add the milk and olive oil. Carry on beating until you obtain a light fluffy structure.
Fold the flower into the mix until is incorporated (be careful not to over mix – a couple of time will do).
Add the remaining ingridients (fried bacon, parsley and grafted cheese) gently mix then in.
Put the batter in the baking dish and transfer to the oven. Let it bake for about 1hour. Test with a knife before taking it out – it should came out dry.
Take it out from the dish while still hot, and let it cool down before serving.
Even food bloggers have really bad kitchen days… Everything seemed going OK until I bumped into the mother of all disaster recipes. Without going into too much detail, the whole thing ended up in the trash bin. Then, I realised I was missing the key ingredient for the next bake. In despair, I turned to google to guide my way out of this mess. “Tea and fruit bread”, said the oracle. “You cannot get this one wrong”. She was right: it is super easy, quick and more importantly, fool-proof. A couple of hours later everything was fine again…
On a side note, this is very close to what my Grandmother used call English cake and insist on buying every Christmas. Us kiddies never thought the point of it – all that crystallised fruit was unappealing. We would patiently wait for it get too dry to eat, so my Mother could convert into a much more appetising bread pudding made with custard.
Tea and fruit bread (adapted from a recipe found in nigella.com)
- 1 cup black tea
- 250g mixed dried fruit
- 250g white flour
- 2 teaspoon of baking powder
- 125g of caster sugar
- 1 large beaten egg
- 2 tablespoons orange marmalade
Grease a loaf tin (about 650g)
Preheat oven to 180oC
Put the fruit in a small bowl, and pour in the tea. Let it soak overnight if possible, or until the fruit is swollen.
In a bowl combine the flour, sugar, egg and marmalade. Then, fold in the fruit and any tea left in the bowl. Mix thoroughly
Put into loaf tin and bake in the oven for 1 hour
Allow to cool slightly before removing from the tin
Nothing like a happy chocolate-y orange-y and super rich-y cake moment to cheer up the day. Never mind the calories – they are all worthwhile.
Chocolate Orange Loaf Cake (adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Kitchen)
- 160g of soft unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 250g raw cane sugar
- 120g of all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
- 2 eggs
- the zest of 2 regular orange and juice of 1 (1/3 cup)
Preheat the oven to 165oC.
Line the loaf pan with parchment paper and grease the sides.
Beat the already soft butter with the syrup and the sugar until you have a fairly smooth cream (you probably will still feel a bit of grit; should look like a large weak coffee with milk).
Mix the flour, baking soda, and cocoa powder together. Sift the equivalent of a 1 tablespoonful of these dry ingredients into the sugar and butter. Mix well before beating in 1 egg. Then add another couple of spoonfuls of the dry ingredients before beating in the second egg.
Carry on beating in the remaining dry ingredients and then add, still beating, the orange zest and finally, gradually, the orange juice. At this stage, the batter may suddenly look dimpled, as if slightly curdled – if this happens, do not worry.
Pour and scrape the batter into the load pan and put in the stove for 45 minute. Test with a knife before taking it out. A cake tester won’t come out entirely clean, as the point of this cake, light though it may be, is to have just a hint of inner stickiness. Let cool a little in its pan on a wire rack, then turn out with care and leave on the rack to cool.
To keep up with the spirit of seasonal cooking, a lemon pudding cake with raspberries… Only one word to describe this: yum. Too bad soon enough berries will be gone from the supermarket…
- Enough berries to cover the bottom of a tray (about 250g)
- 75g of plain flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- pinch sea salt
- 300mL buttermilk
- 125g unsalted butter (melted and cooled down)
- 3 eggs separated
- 150g caster sugar
- 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
Preheat the stove to 180oC
Grease a 750mL to 1L baking dish. Make sure this dish fit fits larger tray, so you can have a bain marie. Scatter the berries over the base of the greased dish, making sure the whole surface is covered
Combine in a large bowl the flour, baking powder and pinch of salt.
In another bowl, lightly whisk together the melted butter, the buttermilk, the yolks, the sugar and the lemon zest.
Stir into the flour mixtures
Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks forms
With a metal spoon, fold in the batter half of the egg whites until well incorporated. Then, fold in the remaining half.
Spread the batter over the berries in the baking dish.
Put the baking dish in the large baking tray. Poor boiling water in the larger dish until it reaches halfway up the sides, creating a main marie.
Transfer to the stove for about 45m to 1h, until it starts to get fluffy and golden (it should be cakey on the top and soft in the middle).
Let it cool for a bit and serve.
It was love at first sight. And, timing couldn’t have been better. I was just looking for my annual super baking project when I bumped into this recipe. It was so delicious, I will have to bake it again. And again… and again. Never mind the Modern Art Cakes – this the one I want I want for my birthday. Truth to be said, it is not particularly difficult dish. But the flavours, oh!, the flavours…. It were layers upon layers of fresh, summery and nutty flavours, each mouthful different.
Apricot, walnut and lavender cake (adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s column in The Guardian)
- 185g unsalted butter, diced and at room temperature
- 2 tbsp walnut oil
- 220g caster sugar
- 120g ground almonds
- 4 medium eggs, beaten
- 120g ground walnuts
- 90g plain flour
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- 1½ tsp picked lavender flowers, fresh or dry
- 600g (gross) apricots, halved and stones removed
For the icing
- 50g icing sugar
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
Heat the oven to 170C/335F/gas mark 3. Put the butter, oil, sugar and almonds in the bowl of a mixer and beat on a medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs bit by bit, making sure each addition is well incorporated before beginning the next, then fold in the walnuts, flour, vanilla, lemon zest, a teaspoon of lavender flowers and an eighth of a teaspoon of salt.
Line the base and sides of a 23cm cake tin with greaseproof paper. Pour in the cake mix and use a palette knife to level it out. Arrange the apricot halves skin side down and slightly overlapping all over the top of the cake, taking them right to the edge.
Bake for 70-80 minutes – cover with foil if the top starts to brown too much; also, note that when you insert a skewer to test for doneness, it will come out a little sticky because of all the moisture in the apricots.
While the cake is baking, whisk together the icing sugar and lemon juice until you have a light, pourable icing (adjust the amount of sugar or juice slightly, to suit your tastes). As soon as the cake is cooked, remove from the oven and brush the icing all over the top. Sprinkle over the remaining lavender flowers and set aside to cool.
You might like the man or not, but the truth is Gordon Ramsay’s dishes are always unpretentious, non-fuss and are always – but always – delicious. If you follow the instructions, you will get what is promised. All you normally need is a few simple ingredients, utensils everyone has in the kitchen and a couple of cooking techniques. And voilà!, dinner is sorted… His last series – Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course – is meant to be a return to cooking basics. I was about to yawn and change channels, when I realised what how simple, easy and very tasty the dishes were. While it still might be basic, these are definitely calories worthwhile taking. A few minutes into the episode, I had decided to a)buy the book; b) bake this cake.
Very conveniently, I had something to celebrate at the office a few days after. Shortly after lunch time, it was gone… It was a really-really-really good cake. Very sugary, but packed with flavours. You cannot go wrong with white chocolate, vanilla and cranberries, can you?
Blondies (white chocolate and cranberries brownie, adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course)
- 150g dried cranberries
- 2* 100g white chocolate bars
- 225g flour
- 200g unsalted butter
- 1 pinch of salt
- 300g sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 2 eggs
Preheat the oven to 200 oC. Butter and flour a baking dish (or use a non stick baking spray). Cover the bottom of the dish with parchment paper.
Put the sugar in a large bowl. Melt the butter, without letting it boil. Stir it in the sugar and whisk until it is smooth.
Meanwhile, in another medium bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder and the salt together.
Beat the eggs and vanilla into the sugar mixture, one by one. Fold in half the flour mixture until all the lumps are gone. Add the rest of the flour and carry on mixing until is well incorporated. Finally, drop in the white chocolate and cranberries and mix until they are evenly distributed.
Spoon the batter into the baking dish, and put in the stove for about 20-25min. Bake until the blondies are light brown around the edges and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean
In the aftermath of #beetrootgate, beetroot brownies… A slightly less guilty pleasure, with a rich and velvety texture. Truth to be said, I like this version better than the 100% chocolaty thing.
Chocolate and beetroot brownies (adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall ‘s River Cottage Everyday)
- 250g of unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 250g dark chocolate (70% cocoa), broken into pieces
- 3 medium eggs
- 250g caster sugar
- A pinch of salt
- 150g whole meal flower
- 1 teaspoon of baking powder (or according to instructions in the package)
- 250g of beetroot, boiled until tender then peeled and grated.
Set the oven to 180oC
Grease a baking tray, and cover the bottom with parchment paper.
Melt the chocolate and the butter in a bain marie. If you don’t have a proper double boiler (I don’t), just fit a metal bowl over a small saucepan filed with a few centimeter of water, making sure the bowl isn’t touching the water. Let the water boil, while mixing the butter and the chocolate until the mixture is well combined and glossy.
Whisk the eggs and the sugar until well combined. Then beat in the chocolate and butter until smooth.
Combine the flour with salt and baking powder. Sift them over the chocolate mix. Gently fold in with a wooden spoon.
Finally, fold in the grated beetroot, and keep on folding gently. Be careful not to over mix – otherwise you will get though brownies
Put the mixture in a tin and smooth the top with a spatula.
Bake for 20-25min, or until a knife insert into the center come out slightly moisten or with a few crumbs attached.
Let it cool until you cut the squares.