Monday, 10 February 2014

Polenta and Blood Orange Cake

Finally, success!!

Succes in creating a polenta cake that does not sink in the middle or fall apart when turned out.
How, I hear you scream?  Well, I've got some tricks up my gluten-free sleeves.

I returned from Italy last October with some Farina di Castagne (Chestnut flour), which has somewhat altered my approach to baking for the Gluten Free's.  It is a seasonal product, which I have discussed before, and it's not the cheapest alternative.  But it's tasty, hugely aromatic and wonderful for getting a good rise and hold on a cake.  Another advantage is that in order to make a splendidly even rise you don't need to use much.  I does a great job, like polenta or semolina, in absorbing everything around it.  BUT, unlike those other two ingredients, it has a tendancy to make things dry, rather than moist.

So, I bashed my brain and experience together to 'experiment' with this in an attempt to have at least one success with polenta.  The ingredients are similar to the Orange & Fig Polenta recipe recently posted, but in order to stop the chestnut flour drying the batter out when it bakes, I have added aditional liquid in the form of egg whites (also to help with a better rise) and freshly squeexed orange juices - and to keep it a bit more italian lets make them blood oranges, for an extra punch.

I have amended the method from how I undertook the cake as I had originally placed the cake in the oven for 10 seconds before realising that I had omitted the butter, which I would never recommend! I salvaged the bake, mind.

200g unsalted butter
300g golden caster sugar
2 eggs
4 extra egg whites
100g ground almonds
120g chestnut flour
120g fine polenta
2 blood oranges (Zest then juice)

For the Topping
3 blood oranges (juice only)
150g golden caster sugar

In an electric mixer, if you have one, cream the butter and the sugar together until combined and smooth.  You can place the butter in the microwave for a few moments if it is straight from the fridge, but don't let it melt - just soften it slightly.
In a small separate bowl weigh out the dry ingredients - ground almonds, chestnut flour and polenta and mix together with a spoon to introduce them to one another.  Set this bowl to one side.
In another small bowl, break the two eggs and separate the remaining four and lightly  whisk.  NB. you can use the leftover egg yolks to make ice cream or biscuits.
A little at a time, add the beaten egg to the creamed butter and, on a low setting, mix until combined.  If the mixture curdles, don't worry, add a small spoonful of the dry ingredients and then continue adding the egg mixture until combined.
Mix for a few minutes.  This is a good time to make yourself a cup of tea, or a gin and tonic.
A spoonful at a time, add the dry ingredients to the ret of the mixture and combine in the mixer until all the dry ingredients are worked in.  Add the zest and juice of the oranges to the mixture and mix one final time.
Pour the mixture into a lined 23" cake tin and place in the oven for 45 until a pale golden brown and spongy to touch.  If the mixture still wobbles, place back in for a five minutes and check again until cooked.
Turn the oven off and leave the cake to settle for 15 minutes.
At this point, lets make the topping - which is a bit like a drizzle, adding both colour and flavour to the top of the cake.
Combine the juice and sugar in a bowl - I quite like it if there are some bits of the fruit in the mixture too - it gives a nice texture to the topping, but that is up to you.
Skewer the top of the cake many many times (maybe 20 times) evenly across the cake.
Pour the sugar / juice mixture across the top of the cake, lifting the cake to evenly distrubute.  You can make more if it doesn't seem enough, or if you want a thicker crust.
Please note that the topping should always be added whilst the cake is still warm, otherwise it won't crust.  If you do it cold it will simply just soak into the cake, which is still delicious, I suppose!

Well, I hope it goes well. 
This one is good with yogurt, or ice cream, or just lift and tip the whole thing straight into your mouth!

Katie xx