A few days ago, I started my batches of creme fraiche and mascarpone cheese, which you can read about and learn how to make on your own, here.
So this week I will be utilizing them in recipes that celebrate all of their creamy, delicious glory.
Yesterday I decided to make some sweet accompaniments for my homemade mascarpone cheese. The intention for this dessert was to let the mascarpone stand out, unaltered.
Almond Polenta Cake with Caramelized Nectarines and Fresh Mascarpone.
Polenta, a coarsely ground cornmeal, pairs well with toasted almonds in this moist, dense loaf cake. The finished product is buttery and nutty, with a slightly crunchy texture from the polenta. Fantastic left as is, but equally lovely dredged in powdered sugar and bruleed, like I did for this plate.
One of my favorite ways to prepare large stone fruits is to caramelize them. A dry caramel is made in a skillet and when golden brown, the nectarines are added, cut side down. Then I add some liquid, which in this case was white wine. Simmer until the caramel dissolves, then gently flip the fruit and finish cooking by moving the skillet to a 325 F oven.
I brushed the caramel from the nectarines onto this plate, then cut the Almond Polenta Cake into strips and bruleed them with some powdered sugar for even more texture. The soft, caramelized fruit was placed on top of the cake, and then quenelles of the fresh mascarpone cheese were served on the side. And by all means don’t feel obligated to attempt your own quenelles, a simple dollop or swoop of the mascarpone cheese is also sufficient! For garnish, almond flour was sprinkled onto the plate.
When served, this creation has all the properties that make a great plated dessert. Nutty, crunchy cake with warm, caramel-covered nectarines, and cool, creamy mascarpone cheese. Sure to be a summer hit at your next dinner party.
Almond Polenta Cake (adapted from Simona Carini)
3 eggs, separated
2 egg yolks
4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons Amaretto or Brandy
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
2/3 cup toasted lightly ground almonds
1 cup stone-ground cornmeal (polenta)
Preheat your oven to 360 F. Grease a 9 x 5″ loaf pan and line the bottom with a strip of parchment paper. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the egg whites to soft-medium peaks. They should resemble ‘beer foam’. At altitude, egg-based baked goods like this work better if the eggs are slightly under-whipped.
In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Add the 5 egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the Amaretto or Brandy and vanilla extract.
Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, almonds, and cornmeal. Add to the batter and beat on low until just combined. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add the whipped egg whites in two additions, lightly folding until just combined, with a spatula.
Portion the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool for 5-10 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely. Cut into slices and serve with the caramelized fruit and fresh mascarpone.
3 nectarines, halved and pitted
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons honey
Preheat your oven to 325 F. In an oven-proof skillet over high heat, make a dry caramel with the sugar. Tilt the pan and swirl it around as it starts to color so it cooks evenly. When golden brown, remove from the heat. Add the nectarines, cut side down, carefully. They will sizzle and make bubbles as they hit the hot caramel. Again, carefully add the white wine and honey. Place back on low heat and simmer until the caramel dissolves into a sauce. Gently flip the nectarines over and place the skillet in the oven. Cook the nectarines until they are tender but not falling apart. Serve warm with their cooking liquid.