I love polenta. For those of you who do not know what polenta is, you've been missing out. In fact, I missed out also. I was never introduced to polenta until my 20's, when I encountered it in restaurants and then started to use it at home.
So, what is it? Basically, polenta is coarsely ground cornmeal. It is a staple food of Northern Italy, but has made it's way onto restaurant menus and into households around the world. It can be used in a variety of ways. Basic polenta is cornmeal made into a thick porridge by boiling it in water. It can be eaten plain and fresh, with the addition of cheese, butter, milk, vegetables, or as an accompaniment to fish or meat. You can also allow it to cool and set, then cut it into shapes and fry or grill it.
Polenta is a great alternative to rice or potatoes. It is an especially good substitute for mashed potatoes, since you can add butter and cream and achieve the same consistency, creaminess, and therefore comfort factor from a bowl of steaming hot polenta as you can from mashed potatoes.
Until recently, I mainly thought of polenta as a savory food. Yes, I have encountered polenta in baked goods, but mainly in bread to add texture and crunch. But today, I made some delicious, sweet polenta cakes. They were flavored with some fresh lemon and I tell you, they were divine! To sweeten things up a little more, I “stuffed” two of them with a nutella center. I also considered mixing some berries into the batter, but that will have to be for another day…
60 grams White Sugar
75 grams Almond Powder
½ tsp Vanilla Extract
Zest of 1 Lemon
Juice of ¼ Lemon
¼ tsp Baking Powder
¼ tsp Salt
40 grams Polenta (yellow cornmeal)
Optional: Nutella or ¼ cup fresh berries
Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Beat in almond powder, then egg, then vanilla extract, then lemon zest and lemon juice, being sure to beat well after each addition.
In a separate bowl, mix together polenta, salt and baking powder. Add these dry ingredients to the butter and sugar mixture.
Grease 4 muffin cups or 4 ramekins, then dust with flour.
To make Polenta Cakes au Naturel:
To make Polenta Cakes with Berries:
Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for about 10-15 minutes before flipping onto a plate.
Enjoy warm as is or with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.