So Sauced has been quiet during this long slog of a winter - but we're back! It's spring, and speaking for the East Coast half of this duo, the first real week of warmth has me fired up and ready to cook.
I kicked it off with a recipe I thought would be a sure-fire winner: blood-orange polenta upside down cake, from the March Bon Appetit. I'm a huge fan of baking masquerading as cooking, especially when the recipes use skillets instead of baking sheets, and end with a death-defying flip.
The result was a 7 out of 10 - promising, but not perfect. But I'm posting it because I love the concept and the cake itself. The polenta made it "toothsome", as one commenter on Epicurious put it, which perfectly captures the pleasantly coarse texture.
But the blood oranges, as much I love their rich color, fell flat. I admit I erred in trying to make the cake a photo-friendly mini serving, seduced by a small cast iron skillet I'd snagged in an antiques store. The three sad little orange slices sat forlornly on my cake, like Olympic rings gone wrong.
Yet I hold out hope that with the right fruit, something firm but sweet, this cake will be a show-stopper. Starfruit, with a tropical ginger caramel? Cherry, with a vanilla glaze? I submit this for your inspiration.
Blood Orange Polenta Upside Down-Cake with Whipped Crème Fraîche Bon Appétit
Makes 8 servings
- 7 tablespoons sugar, divided, plus 3/4 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons water
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
- 3 unpeeled small to medium blood oranges
- 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons unbleached all purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons polenta or coarse yellow cornmeal (preferably stone-ground)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs, separated
- 6 tablespoons whole milk
Whipped crème fraîche:
- 1 cup chilled crème fraîche
- 2 tablespoons sugar
Special equipment: Ovenproof 10-inch-diameter skillet with 2 1/2-inch-high sides
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Combine 6 tablespoons sugar and 3 tablespoons water in 10-inch-diameter ovenproof skillet with 8-inch-diameter bottom and 2 1/2-inch-high sides.Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil without stirring until syrup is golden amber (not dark amber), occasionally brushing down sides of skillet with wet pastry brush and swirling skillet, about 4 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and whisk 2 tablespoons butter into caramel. Set aside.
Cut off both rounded ends of each orange so that ends are even and flat. Using sharp knife, cut oranges into 1/16- to 1/8-inch-thick rounds. Remove and discard any seeds. Arrange orange slices, overlapping slightly, in concentric circles atop caramel in bottom of skillet.
Whisk flour, polenta, baking powder, and coarse kosher salt in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat 3/4 cup sugar, remaining 6 tablespoons room-temperature butter, and vanilla in another medium bowl until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with milk in 2 additions, beating batter just until incorporated.
Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites in large bowl until soft peaks form. Add remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and beat until stiff but not dry. Fold 1/3 of egg whites into batter to lighten, then fold in remaining egg whites in 2 additions. Drop batter by large spoonfuls atop orange slices in skillet, then spread evenly.
Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool cake in skillet 10 minutes. Run small knife around cake to loosen. Place platter atop skillet. Using oven mitts, hold platter and skillet firmly together and invert, allowing cake to settle onto platter. Rearrange any orange slices that may have become dislodged. Cool cake completely at room temperature.
For whipped crème fraîche:
Using electric mixer, beat chilled crème fraîche and 2 tablespoons sugar in medium bowl until mixture thickens. Cut cake into wedges and serve with dollop of whipped crème fraîche.