Before summer ends — it’s 57° at 1:40PM on August 15th and I don’t know where summer is — but assuming it reappears and before the berries are gone, use them wisely and well. It is a rare cake that does not need frosting or whipped cream or ice cream, but this cake can just be eaten on its own.
For breakfast, add espresso. For lunch, a sip of white wine. For dinner, ice cream. I know, I said this cake does not need adornment, but just one scoop of buttermilk ice cream here is really a very good idea. For her clients at Cooking by the Book, Suzen always has ice cream. And she’s found this cake is a perfect match.
This recipe comes from Michele Scicolone’s latest wonderful volume: The Italian Vegetable Cookbook. With dessert ideas like this, even I can become a fan of vegetables.
Warm from the oven, wafting with the polenta aroma you cannot mistake, and bright withberry bites, this cake is one you’ll make again and again.
Double Berry Polenta Cake
Yield: 8 servings
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup fine yellow cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
- ⅓ cup whole milk
- 1 cup raspberries
- 1 cup blueberries
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Butter and flour a 9-inch spring form pan. Tap out the excess flour.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt.
In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter until creamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add ¾ cup of sugar, until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and lemon zest. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. On low speed, mix in half of the dry ingredients. Add the milk. Mix in the remaining dry ingredients just until smooth, about 1 minute.
Spread the batter in the pan. Scatter the berries over the top and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Remove the pan rim and cool completely on the rack.
Cut the cake into wedges and serve.
Source: The Italian Vegetable Cookbook by Michele Scicolone
Photo Information Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/4 for 1/30th second at ISO‑3200
Cobblers are an American creation, really an adaptation to circumstances. In colonial America the traditional British suet pudding could not be made. Cost, ingredients and equipment all were hurdles too high for those colonial families. Instead, a base of stewed filling, fruit filling, was covered with a layer of uncooked biscuits or dumplings.
Variation on the cobbler abound and include the Betty, the Grump, the Slump, the Buckle, the Pandowdy, and the Sonker. Crisps and Crumbles have an oatmeal-based topping instead of that biscuit.
Cobblers have an inherent visual appeal with the biscuit atop the bubbling fruit. Lately, there has been a trend towards individual desserts served in ramekins or small Mason jars. People love these very “personal” desserts and there is a cottage industry out there of books and recipes where clever chefs and writers design new combinations.
And some great chefs have long endorsed this concept. This recipe is from Alfred Portale and reflects a sophisticated balance of fruit components, sugar sweetness, and vanilla aromas. This recipe comes from Alfred Portale’s Twelve Seasons Cookbook published in 2000. The book may have a few years on its pages, but this recipe is ageless.
For a weekend party or brunch, this recipe scales very well. Need kitchen help if you are making a herd of these? Enlist the kids. They love the tasks of stuffing fruit into jars and carefully positioning that top biscuit. This is a graceful way to introduce kitchen creativity to your kids. The benefits could be enormous. You may have a young Portale in your household, and it would be a sin to hold them back.
Summer Berry and Peach Cobbler
Yield: 8 servings
For the filling:
- 5 medium ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced
- 2 pints black berries, or assorted berries
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- ½ cup sugar, or to taste depending on the ripeness of the peaches
For the topping:
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup unsalted butter, softened
- ⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Have ready 8 ramekins, each about 5 inches in diameter.
In a medium bowl, toss together the fruit and vanilla bean and reserve for the assembly.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine and flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and blend to combine. Add the butter and mix on medium-high speed, until the mixture is crumbly. Add the buttermilk and mix again until the dough is combined.
Remove the vanilla bean from the fruit mixture and discard it. Equally fill each ramekin with the fruit, leaving room for the topping. Top each ramekin with a dollop of the topping. Brush the topping with the last tablespoon of buttermilk. Bake for about 35 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling. Cool slightly on wire racks and serve with whipped cream or, even better, a Buttermilk Ice Cream.
Source: Alfred Portale’s Twelve Seasons Cookbook
Photo Information [top shot]: Canon T2i, EFS60mm Macro Lens, F/5.6 for1/60th second at ISO‑1600