Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Lemon polenta cakes

Though there’s nothing more satisfying than a slice of cake, it’s often excess to need to make a whole one to entertain just one friend, or two.  To counter the temptation to eat leftovers for breakfast, lunch and tea - not that there’s anything wrong with that - I (sometimes) scale down the size.  Lemon is a favourite flavour of mine in cooking, whether it’s the kick of the zest in pasta, the combination of the juice with olive oil in salad dressing or the simplicity of a wedge squeezed onto a slice of grilled haloumi.  And then there’s the magic that happens when you combine it with sugar.  Sweet and sharp is the order of the day.  Here, the yellow of the polenta goes nicely with the colour scheme, and cuts the smooth density of the almond meal with unexpected texture.  Similarly, the addition of the sugar syrup on top provides a satisfying crunch.  The other obvious advantage of making smaller cakes is the reduction in cooking time.  These can be whipped up without breaking a sweat in the hour before guests arrive. They’re as good warm as they are at room temperature or even refrigerated… just in case you do happen to have one left over to eat the next day.

Lemon polenta cakes
From a Bill Granger recipe in Delicious magazine

These qualify as gluten-free as long as you're careful about which brand of baking powder you use - many you'll find in the supermarket are but some are not so just make sure you read the label carefully first.

Makes 12 (I often halve the recipe and make 6)

200g unsalted butter
1 cup caster sugar
4 eggs
90g polenta
2 teaspoons baking powder
250g almond meal
2 tablespoons milk
Finely grated zest and juice of one lemon

1/2 cup caster sugar
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 180 deg C.  Line a muffin tray with muffin cases.

Beat butter and sugar in an electric mixer until pale.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add polenta and baking powder, and stir to combine, then the almond meal, milk, lemon zest and juice.  Spoon the mix into prepared pan, and bake for 20 minutes or until light golden.  Cool slightly.

To make syrup, place sugar, lemon zest and juice in a small saucepan with 2 tablespoons of water.  Stir over low heat to dissolve the sugar, then increase heat to high and bring to boil.  Boil for 3-4 minutes, then remove from heat.  Remove cakes from pan.  Brush with hot syrup, then set aside to cool completely.  Store in airtight container for up to 3 days.

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