Sunday, 11 August 2013

Plum, Passion and Pumpkin Polenta Pake

A Pake is very much like a Cake, but where all the main ingredients start with the letter 'P'.  I couldn't bring myself to ruin a gloriously alliterate moment with the 'C' word, especially when what I really wanted to write was 'Pie' but, alas, this is no pie either.

Fuelled by last weeks discovery of just how great polenta is to bake with, I've devised this cake recipe from scratch.  I say cake, it's more like a flan but with moist delicate tart like fruit on the bottom, or the top, or the bottom, or the top.  You see, it's a classic 'upside down' cake.  You bake it with the fruit on the base and then turn it out to serve.

The use of a variety of ingredients, that I am lead to believe all have special powers, is driving me towards a path of less glutenous cake baking (and eating)....and as we all know, when something has half the calories, you can eat twice as much!

Ingredients for Plum base
6 medium plums (I used those that came in my Abel and Cole box this week)
150g golden caster sugar
juice of 1/2 a lemon

Ingredients for Cake
170g unsalted butter
170g golden caster sugar
2 medium free-range eggs
2 passion fruit
200g ground almonds
100g fine polenta
2 tsp baking powder
50g pumpkin seeds
+ a little icing sugar and sprig of mint for decoration

There are really two stages to this recipe, which is a little bit more tricky than last weeks Orange and Fig Polenta Cake but it's worth all the effort you but in. 
The first stage is to prepare and cook the plums.  We need to lightly poach them, to make it easier to remove the skins, then caramelise them in a pan with butter and sugar, before placing them in the cake tin.
Prick the plums a few times and place them in a pan of cold water.  Place the pan over a medium / high heat and bring to a simmer.  You will start to see the skins come away from the flesh.  Simmer for a couple of minutes and remove from the heat.  Do not leave them on the heat for too long otherwise they will poach all the way through and become a mulchy mess to prepare!
Drain and peel what should now be easy to remove skins.  Squeeze the lemon juice over them and leave them to cool in the fridge for an hour or so.  
Grease the sides and line the Base of a 23" loose base flan tin.  
Once cooled, cut the plums in half and then slice each half into 3 or 4 slices.  Melt a large knob of butter in a frying pan, over a medium heat, and add the 150g of golden caster sugar.  Allow the sugar to dissolve to a light bubbling deliciousness.  Gently transfer the plums to the pan, making sure the pan isn't overcrowded and the plums are only one slice deep (i.e. don't stack them up), pour any juice that is in the bowl into the pan with the plums and leave them to caramelise in the sugar syrup for a 3-4 minutes.  Occasionally tilt the pan away from you and, with a spoon, spoon the syrup over the plums so that they are all coated in the delicious sugar syrup.  You will find that the plums start to break down, but thats ok, we're not looking for whole pieces here, just imprints.
Take the plums off the heat and pour the entire contents of the pan into the base of your flan tin.  Spread the plums out to an even level and place the tin in the freezer for an hour or so.
You can prepare the plums up to this point a day or two before you complete the bake.  If the base is completely frozen when you come to bake, then make sure you remove it from the freezer an hour or so before you want to bake, so that that plums can thaw slightly.
Whilst the plums are in the freezer, you can make the cake mixture, which is quick and simple!
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 5.
Cream and the butter and sugar together in an electric mixer for 4-5 minutes, until pale and smooth.
Lightly beat the eggs in a separate bowl and, a little at a time - beating in between, add the eggs to the butter / sugar mixture.  Beat the mixture for a few minutes to ensure the batter is fully combined.
Spoon the pulp from the passionfruit into a sieve and push it through so that only the juice (not the pips) go into the cake batter.  The pips are hard and brittle and don't break down easily in the baking process so it is best just to omit them from the recipe altogether.  Beat together again for a few minutes.
In a separate bowl, measure out the ground almonds, polenta and baking powder and lightly stir so they are combined.  A little at a time, add the dry ingredients into the batter, mixing on a low setting in between, until all the ingredients are combined!
Remove the bowl from a the mixer and, with a metal or wooden spoon, fold in the pumpkin seeds so that they are evenly(ish) distributed.
Remove the plum tin from the freezer, they should be cooled and semi soft - with a white tinge to the top.  Spoon the batter onto the fruit and then spread it out to an even level with a metal palette knife - tip - to stop the batter from sticking to the palette knife, dip the knife in water between uses - the batter will slide of the knife easily.
Place the tin in the pre-heated oven for 40 minutes.
Then turn off the oven and allow the cake to set in the oven for around half an hour.
Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool completely, in it's tin, on a wire rack.
Turn the cake out onto a stand, dust with icing sugar and decorate with a sprig of mint.  Serve with natural yogurt and grown-up conversation.

Katie xxx

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