January 31, 2013

Polenta Chocolate Cake

Robin, 9 January 2013, “Varieties of Short”

8 oz dark chocolate, preferably G&B’s own either 70% or—recommended—the blow-your-socks-off 85% cocoa solids dark chocolate, which is intense.  I find it a little too intense for plain eating but the sock-blowing thing happens when you bake with it.

125g (4 ½ oz) good quality slightly salted butter

5 large eggs, separated

150g (5 oz) granulated sugar.  The original recipe calls for caster, which is finer-grained.  I like granulated, which seems to me to leave a faint residue of grittiness even after baking, although I may be hallucinating this.

100g (3 ½ oz) polenta.  Again, the original recipe stipulates fine.  In my experience this cake doesn’t really rise anyway, it falls.  It’s going to be gooey and sticky whatever you do.  I like the slight grittiness of not-quite-fine polenta.  All those eggs will stop it from being heavy, so if you like gritty, go for not-quite-fine.  I also prefer yellow to white.  This may also be hallucination but I think the yellow has a stronger flavour.

The original recipe also calls for rum.  Feh.  I like rum, in its place, but this isn’t its place.  I use about two tsps of good vanilla—and I haven’t posted a recipe in a while, but you all remember my doodah about GOOD vanilla, right?  None of this vanilla flavouring scam.  Get the real thing.

The original recipe tells you to butter and flour a 10” deep-sided springform cake tin.  I don’t.  This is going to be STICKY so I want it shallow so I can get it out better.  Springform is fine but I don’t think they make shallow springform?  Dunno.  But you could have chocolate-polenta goo all over your counter if you took the sides off too soon.  I use an ordinary big flat cake tin, butter and flour it AND THEN line with parchment paper and butter and flour again.

Melt the chocolate and butter in your bain-marie, let cool, vigorously beat in egg yolks one at a time, and then beat in about half the sugar.  It should be so gorgeously thick and creamy you have trouble not saying ‘bag the polenta’ and eating it as is.

Beat the egg whites with the rest of the sugar.  You want it as airy as possible but as I say, this cake is going to fall so don’t kill yourself over this.

Stir the polenta and vanilla into the chocolate mixture.

Finally ‘fold in’ the egg whites as the cookbooks always say, like this is going to work. You do want to preserve as much of the air and structure as possible, but it is going to collapse, so don’t let this disturb you.  Stir gently, till it’s shiny and homogenous.

Pour, still gently, into the cake pan, smooth the top, and bake at 350F/180C.  The original recipe says 40 minutes, but it’s supposing a deep-sided pan.  Because I am a twit, I have not written down how long I expect it to take.  I’d guess about half an hour.  It will change colour and look like it’s trying to turn into a cake . . . but as I say, think sticky.  Then take it out of the oven and let sit FOR A VERY LONG TIME.  Unless you want chocolate-cornmeal soup.  Not that this is a bad thing.  It WILL SINK as it cools.  Not to worry.

Dust it with icing sugar.  Then cut it up kindly and patiently into squarish globs.

Rhubarb Bars

Robin, 31 January 2013, “Cheerful Things”

Crust:

¾ c plain/unbleached white flour

¼ c ground oatmeal:  whizz ordinary porridge oats in your blender or food processor.  You can also leave them whole, but in this case I like the texture better ground.

8 T lightly salted butter, room temperature, chopped up in preparation to being smushed into the flour and oatmeal

5-6T icing/confectioner’s sugar

1 egg white for glazing

Rhubarb:

1 large egg, room temperature

½ c caster/granulated sugar.  I know, caster is finer grained.  It’s not going to matter here.

¼ c dark brown sugar.  You can cut this down to 2 T and replace with 2 more T of the white.  I like dark brown sugar.

2-6 T ordinary white flour

4 c sliced rhubarb.  NOTE that both how thick you slice it and how much sugar and flour you use should vary with your rhubarb.  If it’s young and sweet and tender, cut big fat chunks and trim the sugar.  If the stalks look like the legs of sea monsters, slice more severely.  If it’s really wet, add more flour.  If it’s relatively dry, add less.

Optional:  1 tsp cinnamon

Or handful of fresh mint leaves, slightly shredded

If you have a food processor, you can make the pastry in it.  I have one but I still make pastry with a knife or the back of a spoon and one hand.†  Stir the flour and oatmeal and sugar (and cinnamon if you’re using it) together and then cut in the butter.  You want to rub it together till it’s reasonably homogenous but don’t suffer over it.  If you’re using unground oatmeal, add it last, after the pastry is mostly finished.  Press this into the bottom of an 8” square pan and glaze with the egg white.  The original recipe tells you to tip the pan back and forth.  My egg whites do not behave very helpfully.  I use either my fingers or a brush.  If you have any egg white left over—this should be a glaze, not a pond—tip it out.  Bake 350°F about 25 minutes.  Take it out and let cool.

Whisk the egg.  Whisk in the flour and sugar.  Stir in the rhubarb.  When the pastry is cool enough that you can pick the pan up in your bare hands, pour the rhubarb over, and put this in the oven for about an hour.  Cool COMPLETELY before cutting, and chances are, rhubarb being rhubarb, you’ll still be serving it in bowls.  Sprinkle mint leaves over, if you like mint leaves.