Tuesdays with Dorie: Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Every morning I grab my morning coffee, sit down at my computer and catch up with what’s going on in the world. First, I check my emails, and then I take a look at at my local newspaper as well some others, like the New York Times, the L.A. Times and the Miami Herald. After that, I click on my Google Reader to see what my fellow bloggers have been up to.
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A couple of months ago, I started noticing posts from a newly formed group called Tuesdays with Dorie or TWD. TWD is a group of baking enthusiasts and Dorie Greenspan fans, whose mission is to bake their way through Dorie’s cult classic, Baking: From My Home to Yours. Each week a new recipe from the book is selected, and the TWD members bake and post about it. It sounded like a great idea! I already had the book and used it frequently. I would have joined right then and there, but after recently having joined the venerable Daring Bakers, I just didn’t know if I had the time to commit.
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After drooling over week after week of fabulous Dorie-inspired creations, I could stand it no more. I wanted in. So, here I am presenting my first offering as an official member of Tuesdays with Dorie, and I couldn’t be happier!
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When I learned that this week’s recipe, chosen by Caitlin of Engineer Baker, was Dorie’s Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake, I breathed a little sigh of relief. It is not a very fussy or complicated cake to make. I figured that I couldn’t possibly mess it up. Perfect for my TWD debut.
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This cake is a moist and dense polenta or corn meal based cake, flavored with honey and stuffed with dried figs. I’d never had a polenta cake before, but I’ve eaten a lot of cornbread and I assumed that the texture would be similar. Unfortunately, I’m not a big fan of cornbread. But, I’m nothing if not a good sport, so I put my game face on and baked it anyway.
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My end result confirmed my suspicions. This cake definitely had the same grainy texture as cornbread, but was a lot more delicious. With it’s earthy, honey undertones and sweet, chewy figs, it has earned its place in Dorie’s repertoire. Surprisingly, my fourteen year-old daughter loved it and ate two pieces. For “Miss OMG, I Can’t Eat THAT! It’s WAAAAAY to Fattening!!!”, that was major! This will never be one of my favorites, but added to the equation of good friends and good coffee, I think it would be quite nice.

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Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake
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About 16 moist, plump dried Mission or Kadota figs, stemmed
1 c. medium-grain polenta or yellow cornmeal
½ c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 c. ricotta
1/3 c. tepid water
¾ c. sugar
¾ 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
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Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 10 ½-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom and put it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

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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.
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Whisk the polenta, flour, baking powder, and salt together.

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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.
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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.
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Transfer the cake to a rack and remove the sides of the pan after about 5 minutes. Cool to warm, or cool completely.
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Enjoy!

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Hello and welcome to SGCC! I’m Susan, a professional writer, food columnist, recipe developer, wife, mother, daughter and sister, who used to be a lawyer in a previous life. My love of food comes from a long line of wonderful and creative Italian home cooks who didn’t always have a lot, but knew how to make a lot out of what they had. I hope that you enjoy yourself while you’re here, and visit often! read more >>

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