Thursday, April 24, 2008
I wish I had a fig tree in my backyard. Growing up in Brooklyn many homes in Italian neighborhoods had fig trees. The fruit is colored with deep plum flesh (or white) and has a subtle delicate flavor. Once inside, it's squishy with tiny seeds. Also, figs are good for you, filled with phosphorus, calcium and iron.
The assignment from my weekly baking club, Tuesdays With Dorie (TWD) selected the Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake. This recipe called for dried figs, fresh figs are smooth on the outside. The texture of the cornmeal and the chestnut honey make this cake delicious. This cake is a keeper.
Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake
About 16 moist, plump dried Mission or Kadota figs, stemmed
1 cup medium-grain polenta or yellow cornmeal
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup ricotta
1/3 cup tepid water
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup honey (if you’re a real honey lover, use a full-flavored honey such as chestnut, pine, or buckwheat)
1 stick (8 tbl ) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus 1 tbl, cut into bits and chilled
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 large eggs
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.
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.
Whisk the polenta, flour, baking powder, and salt together.
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.
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. Transfer the cake to a rack and remove the sides of the pan after about 5 minutes. Cool to warm, or cool completely.