I've joined an online baking community/challenge called Tuesdays with Dorie. Each week the group bakes a recipe from the fabulous book Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan.
I have to admit that I was quite skeptical about this weeks recipe which calls for cornmeal of all things. I would never have picked out this recipe myself - which is part of the reason I joined this group - to get out of my comfort zone! Anyway, despite my trepidations, this cake is delicious. I was pleasantly surprised by how it turned out and the cornmeal gives it a really nice crunchy texture that you don't normally find in a dessert. I really couldn't discern the ricotta at all but overall the cake was very moist, sweet and mouth friendly.
About 16 moist, plump dried Mission or Kadota figs, stemmed
1 c. medium-grain polenta or yellow cornmeal
1/2c. all-purpose flour1 tsp baking powder
1 c. ricotta
1/3 c. tepid water
3/4 C. sugar
3/4 c. honey (if you’re a real honey lover, use a full-flavored honey such as chestnut, pine, or buckwheat)
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 large eggs
1 stick butter, melted and cooled
1 stick butter, cut into tiny bits
Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 10 -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.
I used dried apricots in this recipe instead of the figs - primarily because I couldn't find figs. I suspect that any plump, dried fruit would work fine in this recipe.
This recipe is very, very sweet - if you don't have the sweet tooth that I do you could probably reduce the sugar quite significantly. The honey is a must though.
My cake wasn't anywhere near done at the 40 minute mark. I baked it another 10 minutes before it had set and begun to brown around the edges. At 40 minutes the centre was still jiggling!
I didn't really fiddle too much with this recipe (being a newbie and all) but there are some great ideas from other bakers in the group. Check out their blogs from the TWD Bakers List on Tuesdays with Dorie.