A Moist Dense Olive Oil Polenta Cake with Candied Kumquats

Olive Oil Polenta Cake with Candied Kumquats- A Stack of Dishes

Earlier this summer I attended a party that served the most delicious olive oil polenta cake. It was densely wonderful, and only slightly sweet. It was the unusual texture that I really fell in love with. It had a slight crunch of the grits, and to counter the low sugar in the cake, a lovely glaze that just fringed the top edge. As you can see this cake has been haunting me. So much so that I had to sort it out- A gorgeous Olive Oil Polenta Cake, just like the one I had tasted. [Read more…]

The After Feast- and Gingerbread

Stacks of Dishes with my morning Gingerbread
The gathering was easy and the company divine. Good food, delicious laughs and familial ease. It was a lovely day, one of the nicest I’ve had with my family in awhile. We were a small group, so there was plenty of opportunity to share and really get to speak with one another. My children are adults now and starting to point themselves into different directions. It’s one of the hardships when pulling together large groups. I love to entertain large raucous crowds, it’s so nice to “see” everyone, but I always leave feeling like I didn’t get a chance to really visit.
Yesterday was a sweet day for visiting. The sunny afternoon was filled with relaxed talk while my Mother and my son leaned back into couches, Olivia danced with herself in the corner as we put the desserts together, and my Uncle Joe told me stories of my Grandfather- who passed when I was too young to know him- as I put on the coffee. Priceless ease.
My favorite time, once the evening is over, is the quiet morning after. I’m a bit of a pain in that I really don’t like people cleaning up my kitchen. It’s not that I’m such a control freak or anything, it’s that there is something beautifully zen about the sound of soapy water, and the clattering of dishes and silver while I review the events of the evening. There is ceremony in the storing away of platters and serving pieces- my loved things amongst loved ones, now put to rest until the next gathering. As I look around there are remnants of the evening imprinted in the dents in the pillows, crumbs on the carpet, and scattered smudgy wine glasses. It all tells a story, and every story touches me. Beauty.
The morning held no rush for me. Everyone had headed off into the evening to their own homes so I was left to myself in the morning light to putter and fuss. This year for Thanksgiving my fiancee is at home in Louisiana with her family. It’s hard to juggle families and holidays. I know so many that have to do it, it’s not like I can complain really, it’s just that she is also my family, and it’s hard to be separated. This fact just made my morning that much quieter and that much more introspective.

Late yesterday, after finishing all my dinner preparations, I had a small chunk of time and a half a can of pumpkin left over. Since the oven was already on I pulled together a tasty Gingerbread for my after-feast breakfast. A simple homey tea cake.

This quick bread is SUPER moist with a nice mellow hit of molasses and a tender bite of ginger. The pumpkin doesn’t reveal itself, it merely adds moisture and depth. As you can see it slices quite nicely and could even do with a toasting and a pat of butter if that’s your preference.

I sliced mine up super thin to enjoy with my milky latte. It was a nice quiet moment in the morning light, before I began my post feast ritual.

Morning After Moist Gingerbread
makes one 4″x11″ loaf~ enough to serve 8-10
.5 can pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
2 large eggs
.5 c vegetable oil
.75c water
.5 c molasses
1c white sugar
1.75c all purpose flour
2 t baking soda
1 t salt
1t ground cinnamon
1t freshly grated nutmeg
2T freshly grated ginger
Preheat oven to 350˚ and grease 4″ x 11″ loaf pan
In medium bowl combine pumpkin, eggs, oil, water, molasses and sugar. Stir smooth.
In large bowl combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.
Pour the wet ingredients into the large bowl and stir just until incorporated. This makes a fairly wet batter.
Gently spoon into the loaf pan and spread evenly.
Place pan into the center of the preheated oven and bake. After ~40 minutes test for doneness- Gently pressing on the top of the cake. When it is springy to the touch is it done. Alternatively use a toothpick to poke into center of cake. When the toothpick comes out clean it’s done.
Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before removing from the pan.
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!


Rosemary Orange Polenta Cake: Day 2 Irene’s Beans

So glad everyone liked the donuts! Thank you for all your comments and tweets! The second installment is a delicious coffee cake, that takes no special ingredients and only minutes to get into the oven. Then once in the oven it fills the kitchen with a beautiful aroma of orange and rosemary.
For a little added texture I used a coarse cornmeal. This renders a hearty crunch to the crumb of the cake, and the sugar/rosemary topping adds a sweet crunch to the top. It might seem a bit rustic for some, but I like to sink my teeth into a good coffee cake, and the balanced flavors gives it some grace.
I used fresh rosemary from my window box, but dried would work fine here too. Rather than add rosemary into the batter, I left it for the topping, which infused the cake with the aromatic without overpowering it- allowing the zesty orange to shine through.
The coffee pairing for this (sounds like a wine pairing, doesn’t it?) is Irene’s Barundi Yandaro. It’s a medium bodied roast that Irene describes as having chocolate notes with spice, I sensed it as an earthier robust with spice and some sweet high notes. These beans come from East Africa where the coffee industry is emerging and taking itself very seriously. You can count on quality beans and a rich robust flavor.
The rosemary is a nice compliment to this coffee and the orange zest in the cake gives the sprightly lift it needs to highlight the top notes.
And for the record- if all this nuancing of flavors has you holding your head- forget about it! Enjoy the coffee, enjoy the cake- and have another slice on me.
Rosemary Orange Polenta Coffee Cake
10-12 slices
.5 c neutral olive oil
2 large eggs, room temp
1c sugar
zest of one orange and it’s juice
1.5c all purpose flour
.25 c coarse cornmeal
2t baking powder
1t salt
2T rosemary
4T sugar
mini pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350˚ and prepare either an 8″ cake pan or 4″ wide loaf pan. Grease pan with oil and line with parchment paper (I used a paper bag) and grease that too.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, zest, cornmeal, bp and salt. Stir thoroughly.
In separate bowl whisk together olive oil, eggs, sugar and orange juice.
Pour the egg mixture into the dry and gently but thoroughly mix batter.
Spoon into the prepared pan and distribute evenly.
On cutting board combine the sugar and rosemary. Mince the rosemary with the sugar. This is why the fresh is so lovely, it will impart some of it’s oils and aromas directly into the sugar. Sprinkle this mixture over the top of the cake.
Bake in the center of your oven for approx 40 mins until the center of the cake springs back to the touch or a tester comes out dry.
Cool for 5 mins then gently, so as not to mess the sugar topping, remove the cake and cool on rack until ready to serve.
When I stored my leftover cake I simply wrapped foil around the sides, leaving the top exposed. The cake may stale a little overnight, which is fine for a coffee cake, but more importantly, it preserves the crunch of the topping, which is definitely the best part.