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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Mini Lemon Basil Polenta Cake with Limoncello Glaze

Chicago is an amazing city for free events, sure we have the highest taxes in the country but it's all the more reason to actually attend the free events and concerts. Many of these concerts are held at Millennium park, it's a cool steel stage setting with the gruff city as a backdrop. Add a few friends, a picnic basket of goodies and a couple bottles wine and it's a great night out in the city.

This month we enjoyed  the Lyric Opera and also the introduction of Munti, the long awaited conductor for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. There is something iconic about watching an opera while sitting in a park with the grit of the city surrounding you.

We had less than hour for me to create a dessert for our picnic, so it had to be easy, portable, cook quickly and be made with ingredients I had on hand.  Probably not the best time to create a new recipe, but the use of polenta against the lemon and basil became reminiscent of listening to the opera in the middle of Chicago, delightful, packed with lemon omph and a slightly undertone of grit ...sort of like fat and happy. How fitting for the occasion.
Tips and Techniques:  I turned the cake out of the pan and used a small 1" round cutter to create the mini cakes. Take the scraps and make mini little parfaits for the next day. You can also leave the cake in the pan and just serve squares if you prefer. 

Mini Lemon Basil Pine Nut Polenta cake with Limoncello Glaze and Mascarpone Whipped Cream

 1/4 + 1 Tbls cup semolina flour
1/3 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1/4 + 1 Tbls cup buttermilk
3 Tbls honey
3 Tbls melted butter
10 basil leaves, chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts

Mix dry ingredients with a fork, combine the wet ingredients (the egg, buttermilk and honey) in a separate bowl and add to the dry. Stir just to incorporate.  Fold in the basil leaves and the melted butter.

Pour the batter into a small greased or parchment paper lined 8x9" cake pan (these will only be about 1" tall); sprinkle the pine nuts on top. Bake at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until the middle is set and the edges begin to turn slightly golden brown.

Limoncello Glaze
4 tbls butter
1 lemon, juiced and zested
3/4 cup powder sugar
2 Tbls limoncello
4 basil leaves, whole

Mix the glaze while the cake is cooking. Melt the butter, whisk in the remaining ingredients. Set aside until the cake is removed from the oven, I like to keep this on the warm stove while the cake is cooking. Remove cake from the oven, let rest for 5 minutes.  If you are removing the cake from the pan, do so now.

Remove the basil leaves from the glaze and drizzle the entire lemon glaze over the cake.  Top each mini cake a dollop with Mascarpone whipped cream and serve immediately or at room temperature.

Mascarpone Whipped Cream

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup mascarpone
1/4 - 1/2 cup powder sugar (more for a stiffer, sweeter cream)
1 tsp vanilla

Whip all ingredients until soft peaks are formed.

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