Suzi's Blog

Double Berry and Polenta Cake

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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

Ingredients:

  • 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

Preparation:

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

 

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Killer Brownies from Marc Forgione

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Yesterday I posted a Coffee Nutella Ice Cream to be paired with this Killer Brownie. It’s dense and chocolaty. The crust, you can see from the picture, is thin and fragile. You could not frost these brownies, so ice cream is a sound way to “complete” the dish, although honestly it does not need anything in addition.

If you don’t want ice cream, then some whipped cream will tone down the intensity of this dessert. Or, you can go the other way. A glass of deep and dark red wine is a complement readily enjoyed.

Unlike most people, I can truthfully claim I have eaten more brownies than Oreos. Suzen and I have a shelf devoted to brownie books. Not cookie books. Brownie books. It is an American dessert, perhaps as much “the” American dessert as apple pie. The wife of the owner of the premiere Chicago Palmer House Hotel requested that her chef create a dessert for ladies attending the World Fair in Chicago 1893. The idea was to have something small, a cross between cake and cookie.

Bertha Palmer was married to Potter Palmer. He had founded a department store and sold it off — before it evolved into Marshall Field’s. He founded the Palmer House, only to lose it in the Great Chicago Fire. But he rebuilt and the Palmers were formidable and gracious members of Chicago society.

Bertha is forgotten now. But her desire, the brownie, is an institution as grand as any hotel or department store.


Killer Brownies

Yield: 8 really large ones

Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup plus ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ⅔ cup cake or all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Place the butter and sugars in the bowl and melt and mix until creamed and smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix to combine.

Sift the cocoa powder, flour, and salt into a bowl. Add half the cocoa mixture to the butter mixture and mix until just combined, scraping down the bowl continuously. Repeat with the remaining half.

Grease and flour an 8-inch square cake pan. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and transfer to the oven. Bake until a toothpick inserted comes out dry but with a crumb or two. The top should look dry, crater like, and crackly, about 20 to 25 minutes. Set aside to cool completely. Trim off the edges first [you can save for a great ice cream topping] and cut into even squares.

Source: Cooking by the Book Staff with info from Wikipedia

Photo Information Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/4.5 for 1/50th second at ISO‑2500