Monday, April 28, 2008

Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake

This week in our Tuesdays With Dorie's quest, Caitlin of Engineer Baker chose:

Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake

Well, I have to say that my second Tuesdays With Dorie assignment did not go as well as the first. The cake looked great. I had no overflow of the batter. I didn't have the "sunken rectangles" from the butter. I had the little white circles from the pats of butter. ( I cut the butter up very tiny to try and prevent the sunkenness ( is that even a word- it has a red line under so I'm gonna assume it's not!). It was a very pretty color. And then it was time to remove the pan. I don't know what I thought would happen. I mean five minutes earlier the pan had just come out of a really hot oven. So why would I think that I could let the outer ring of the tart pan slide down around my arm while I set the cake back on the cooling rack?? Well, when you do this I will tell you that it burns- bad. I could try and explain to you what happened at this point but I'll just show you. At least it didn't fall on the floor!

I didn't have the time to make another. And in all honesty- I had no more butter even if I would have had the time to make another cake. But the cake tasted very good. It is surprisingly sweet. I could not find figs at our market so I used dried apricots instead- it worked out rather nicely I think!
I tried to make it look better here:

I am just going to call it "rustic". Maybe it just looks like I don't own any knives and I had to tear it into slices? Do you think people would believe it?

Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake

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.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Slowly Going Green

I will be the first to admit that I should be doing more to save the planet for our grandkids and their grandkids and their grandkids (you get the point). So in honor of Earth Day I am going to do ter from here on. I will take baby steps but every little bit counts, right?

Here are some "green" products I like:

REUSE: Reusable shopping bags- like these from Envirosax.
RECYCLE- This composter is way cooler than the plain old pile of compost in my backyard! You can buy this here.
REDUCE- High Efficiency Appliances- who doesn't like saving money on water and electricity? I have the Cabrio set from Whirpool and really love them.

Tuesdays With Dorie

For a few months now I have been watching this wonderful group of bakers over at Tuesdays With Dorie as they bake their way through Dorie Greenspan's book, Baking: From My Home to Yours. I knew I wanted to join them. In order for that to happen I had to make a few other things happen first:
1- I needed a blog. Check!
2- I needed to make a commitment. Check!
3- I had to get a copy of the book. Check!!!!

Now that all three have been checked off- I am now a member of this wonderful group, Tuesdays with Dorie!

This is my first week and Amanda over at Slow Like Honey gave us our "assignment" of Bill's Big Carrot Cake. I am not a huge fan of carrot cake, however, I did find some carrot cake lovers to share the cake with. They said they really enjoyed it. In an attempt to get my husband to eat some of the cake I substituted chocolate chips for the raisins. It still didn't work- His exact words were "gross". He really is a dessert lover but he does not like carrot cake- oh well!

Bill's Big Carrot Cakes
Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

Yields 10 servings


For the cake:
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon salt
3 cups grated carrots (about 9 carrots, you can grate them in food processor fitted w/ a shredding a blade or use a box grater)
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
½ cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden) or dried cranberries
2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
4 large eggs

For the frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick ( 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 pound or 3 and ¾ cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or ½ teaspoon pure lemon extract
½ cup shredded coconut (optional)
Finely chopped toasted nuts and/or toasted shredded coconut (optional)

Getting ready:
Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter three 9-x-2-inch round cake pans, flour the insides, and tap out the excess. Put the two pans on one baking sheet and one on another.

To make the cake:
Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl, stir together the carrots, chopped nuts, coconut, and raisins.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the sugar and oil together on a medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs one by one and continue to beat until the batter is even smoother. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing only until the dry ingredients disappear. Gently mix the chunky ingredients. Divide the batter among the baking pans.
Bake for 40-50 minutes, rotating the pans from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point, until a thin knife inserted into the centers comes out clean. The cakes will have just started to come away from the sides of the pans. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes and unmold them. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up.
The cakes can be wrapped airtight and kept at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.

To make the frosting:
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until the frosting is velvety smooth. Beat in the lemon juice or extract.
If you'd like coconut in the filling, scoop about half of the frosting and stir the coconut into this position.

To assemble the cake:
Put one layer top side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. If you added the coconut to the frosting, use half of the coconut frosting to generously cover the first layer (or generously cover with plain frosting). Use an offset spatula or a spoon to smooth the frosting all the way to the edges of the layer. Top with the second layer, this time placing the cake stop side down, and frost with the remainder of the coconut frosting or plain frosting. Top with the last layer, right side up, and frost the top- and the sides- of the cake. Finish the top with swirls of frosting. If you want to top the cake with toasted nuts or coconut, sprinkle them on now while the frosting is soft.
Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes, just to set the frosting before serving.

This cake can be served as soon as the frosting is set. It can also wait, at room temperature and covered with a cake keeper overnight. The cake is best served in thick slices at room temperature and while it's good plain, it's even better with vanilla ice cream or some lemon curd.

The cake will keep at room temperature for 2 to 3 days. It can also be frozen. Freeze it uncovered, then when it's firm, wrap airtight and freeze for up to 2 months. Defrost, still wrapped, overnight in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


I picked up a copy of the latest Shop Smart from Consumer Reports while I was at the grocery store. I found a fun list of stuff that is free. I had not heard of most of these and thought I would share with you:

Free TV shows:

Free Music Downloads - click here

Free Product Samples - click here

Free College Courses - click here

Free Video Games - click here


These are a few of my favorite things...

One that I have:

And one that I want:

This iPod (mine is ancient)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

"Trippy" Snacks

I love that I am almost thirty years old, I am not in school and haven't been for quite a few years, I have no children in school and my husband isn't in school and yet I still got to go on Spring Break this year! Woohoo!! We made the journey from Atlanta to Washington, DC to immerse ourselves in culture, history and family. This was my first time in DC and I had a blast!

I thought we should should have some snacks for our trip. I saw the recipe for these over at Sugar & Spice. They were really good!

Click here for the pretzel recipe.

The Ranch Oyster Cracker recipe came from You can find it here.