Amor polenta (also known as dolce varese) is a traditional recipe from northern Italy, made with polenta, almond meal and flour. It is usually made in a specially designed, ridged pan, but you can use a regular loaf tin as well. I love this recipe so much I have also used it in a round cake tin or even as muffins. It is easily made gluten-free by substituting the flour for half the weight of potato starch, and you can use hazelnuts instead of the almonds for a deeper, nutty flavour.
This recipe is inspired by the first amor polenta recipe I ever tried, which I found in Gourmet Traveler a number of years ago by Italian-Australian chef Stefano de Pieri. He serves his cake with poached pears, which is not traditional but certainly a nice idea. More traditional would be to have it on its own, with espresso for breakfast or a glass of wine for a snack, or dressed up with some fresh fruit and whipped cream. —Emiko
(100 grams) fine cornmeal (polenta)
(80 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
(60 grams) almond meal
(125 grams) softened butter, plus more for greasing
(100 grams) sugar
vanilla pod, seeds scraped
of rum or Strega, optional
powdered sugar, for serving
In This Recipe
Combine the flour, polenta, almond meal, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl, beat the butter and sugar until creamy. Add the yolks and eggs one at a time, along with the vanilla and rum, if using, beating well until pale and fluffy. Add the dry ingredients, folding through carefully,
Grease the cake tin well with butter, then dust entirely with flour, tipping the tin upside down to remove any excess. Pour the batter in and smooth the top over.
Bake at 350F (180C) for about 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and springy. Remove from the oven and immediately place top-down on a cake rack. Leave until cool enough to touch the pan before removing carefully. Serve dusting with powdered sugar.
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.