Author Notes: so, i was tinkering with community grains organic floriani red flint polenta today, and i'll tell you what, it is no meek beast. it is utterly beautiful with flecks of russet over a coarse field of ochre, and stalwart too, for one must lovingly cook it for three hours to arrive at a bowl. when i was working at oliveto some years ago, the chefs would invade the kitchen for the night's shift and a pot of it would inevitably be bubbling away on a corner burner having been begun by a day chef some few hours before. i always enjoyed a little bowl when it was done, a bit of butter turned into the heart of it. and i swear to you, you have decidedly not had real polenta if you have not had a slow-cooked bowl of this.
today i wanted to make something special with my floriani red flint (what a cool name, eh?) something that would herald its magnificence, something where it alone would be the star. i received a bag some weeks ago, and it has been awaiting some extraordinary invention ever since. it is not that i have been procrastinating, rather, such a worthy gift requires some serious consideration. every day i have been spying this parchment bag, plump with my treasure, wondering how i could honor its majesty. today i believe that i did just that.
with a conservative number of ingredients and just a few deft moves, this simple cake turned out to be the cake that i have been searching for my whole life; decidedly moist with an uber tender crumb, earthy and just sweet enough. it also happens to be gluten-free. the addition of a few resinous herbs (i especially loved the one with rosemary) and a rasp of nutmeg exalted the virtues of the red flint, lending no airs to the rusticity of the thing. i actually made this cake for a friend who was visiting from ireland, and after the first bite she asked if we could make another so that she could take it home to share with her family and friends.
the key to this cake is that you must use community grains floriani red flint polenta. it is made from a near-extinct variety of corn rediscovered in northern italy in a town called trento. the whole kernel is coarse-milled with nothing sifted out which means the fullest, earthiest flavored polenta that you have ever experienced in your life. and ps, this cake is gluten free! - frankieolives
- 1 cup community grains floriani red flint polenta
- 1 1/2 cups finely ground almond meal, preferably with the skin on
- 1 cup organic evaporated cane sugar
- 1 cup plus 2 TB creme fraiche, cold *
- 4 oz (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cold
- 3 large eggs, cold
- 1 TB pure bourbon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp kosher salt
- sage or rosemary leaves
- a few rasps of nutmeg
- * for the creme fraiche: in a glass measure, add 2 TB buttermilk to 1 cup heavy cream, stir to incorporate, and leave out on the counter for 24 hours until it thickens. stir to check the consistency. if it is a tad thin, allow to ferment a little while longer until it reaches the desired 'creme fraiche' consistency. that is to say that it should be the consistency of sour cream. refrigerate until ready to use.
- preheat the oven to 350 degrees. cut a parchment circle to fit the bottom of a 9" pan with a removable bottom. lay the parchment in the pan, butter the pan well, then if using sage, lay the leaves in some pleasing arrangement, pressing them into the butter. if using rosemary, chop finely and scatter over the bottom of the pan. please do manage a reserved hand with the application of your resinous herbs. a modest bit goes a very long way.
- using your clean coffee mill, whir the floriani red flint polenta in small batches until very fine. in a bowl, whisk together the milled polenta with the almond meal, the salt, a few rasps of nutmeg, and the baking powder. set aside.
- using a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar, scraping down the sides to ensure full amalgamation. when it is pale yellow and fluffy, add the eggs one at a time, mixing well and scraping down the sides of the bowl at least once with each addition. after the final egg is thoroughly incorporated, add the vanilla and mix well.
- using a wide rubber spatula, gently fold the polenta mixture and the creme fraiche into the egg and butter mixture, alternating the polenta and creme fraiche as follows: fold 1/3 of the polenta mixture into the egg and butter mixture, then fold in 1/2 of the creme fraiche, leaving streaks of creme fraiche in the mixture before adding the next addition of the polenta mixture. repeat until all of the ingredients are folded, ending with the polenta mixture. do not over mix.
- in large spoonfuls, drop the batter into the prepared pan so to anchor the herbs. carefully spread the top of the batter until smooth, making every effort not to disturb the arrangement of the leaves in the bottom of the pan.
- using your thumb, create a little moat in the batter around the edge of the pan.
- pop into the oven and bake until golden brown around the edges, these which have also pulled away from the sides of the pan a bit, and when a skewer plunged into the heart of the thing comes out clean, 45 - 50 minutes.
- cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack, then remove from the pan, invert, and serve generous wedges with tea.