This week's TWD challenge was selected by Caitlin, of Engineer Baker. I love ricotta cheese, especially on pizza and in lasagna. I wasn't sure about using ricotta cheese in a sweet dish, but I know using ricotta is common in Italian desserts, such as cheesecake and in cannolis. This recipe is ridiculously easy. Well, except the part about finding figs. I couldn't track any figs down, so I subbed prunes in. I have a new appreciation for dried plums or prunes after hearing David Lebovitz present Parisian Desserts at Central Market here in San Antonio a few weeks back. David Lebowitz quickly turned my aversion to prunes into adoration with his chocolate prune aramagnac cake, which he effortlessly whipped together in minutes during the class. I plan to post about in the future, and will compare his version to Dorie's. Well, I decided I would bake more with prunes after his class so I thought this cake would be the perfect opportunity to test drive this new infatuation of mine. And it was. Like I mentioned earlier, this cake was easy to put together, with minimal dishes to clean up (ease of dessert is always directly proportional to the number of dishes dirtied, in my book). The crumb was nice, too, sort of crumbly like cornbread, but at the same time moist from the ricotta and prunes. I decided to quarter the recipe and it was perfect for one 4 inch tartlette, just because I feel like I've been on a sugar high these past few weeks. Thanks, Caitlin, for choosing this cake; it's one I think I would have bypassed but I'm so glad I tried it. Don't forget to check out the other TWD'ers for their creations.
Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake
(From Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours)
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
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.