Friday, May 28, 2010

Simple But Special--Two Cakes that Win Compliments

Dinner from appetizer to desert--all cooked from scratch in a leisurely hour and a half. How does Capri Flavors Chef Titina do it? She keeps the recipes for her popular cooking classes simple. Not a hard task since the best Italian food is simple fare. Think Pizza Margarita--a few beautifully matched ingredients--all the highest quality. Now, translate that approach to a desert. Titina's Torte Caprese showcases almonds, chocolate, and fresh eggs. This is a simple, rustic, but elegant cake.

For an even simpler desert, try Capri Flavors cooking student Christine's favorite Olive Oil Polenta Cake. It's easy to make, needs no special ingredients and great with summer berries. Baking with oilve oil and polenta are techniques she learned in Capri Flavors classes.

-Titina’s Recipe--
Torta Caprese (Almond and Chocolate Cake)
¾ cup CapriFlavors extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup water
12 oz. sugar
1½ cup of whole almonds with skin
1 cup semi sweet chocolate in block
6 extra large eggs

Serves: 10; preparation: 10 minutes; Cooking Time: 50 minutes;
Level of Difficulty: Simple

Grease a 9” or 10” pan with olive oil, dust with flour and line with wax paper.
Coarsely chop chocolate with a large knife. Coarsely cut almonds in blender, not fine. Set both the chocolate and almonds aside.Beat sugar and eggs together for about4 minutes, then add olive oil very slowly and the water. Turn mixer to slow and add almonds and chocolate until mixed. Pour mixture into pan. Bake in a preheated over at 350 degrees F for 50 minutes.

Olive Oil, Polenta Cake
1-1/4 cup soft wheat flour
1/4 cup polenta
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla powder (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
3 eggs at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup Capri Flavors olive oil
2 Tbs lemon juice
Zest of one lemon

Stir together dry ingredients( flour, polenta, baking powder, salt and vanilla powder) in a small bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, Beat eggs at medium speed for 3-4 minutes until creamy and lemon colored. With mixer running, add sugar in a slow stream. Then add oil in a thin, steady stream. Beat in zest, lemon juice and vanilla extract if using.
Turn off mixer and add dry ingredients in three batches, gently folding in with a wooden spoon. Do not over mix. Bake in grease and floured 9 inch pan at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until the crusty top is well browned. Cool on a wire rack serve with berries and or gelato and a drizzle of chocolate Vincotto.

Note from Christine: I use Italian flour (Farina) in this recipe. The vanilla powder comes from Capri Flavors and I also like to use their Paneangel Lievito (Italian Baking Powder) for a more authentic result. It's strong stuff, so use 3/4 tsp instead of the full 1-1/2 tsp. Alao-- a nod to William Sonoma's excellent cookbook, Essentials of Italian for the original olive oil cake recipe which I adapted. This is a great book. I give it 5 stars.