Friday, March 4, 2011

It's that Tea Cakes time of year, again.

I've been a little extra enamored of my Tartine Cookbook this winter. The chill in the air coupled with a somewhat unreliable boiler (it was touch and go around Christmas) has turned me into someone who has the oven on constantly. Yet I'm a perfect candidate for an Aga... Who am I kidding though? I've always been that girl.

It all started with an overstocked of treacle (so Steamed Gingerbread Pudding) then moved on to a stockpile of bananas so ripe they went black. Perfect company for the dates we brought back from Marrakech which were in need of a dish to fill out (and so Banana Date Teacake). Poppyseeds in need of a home went into the very short lived Lemon Poppyseed Teacake (which sadly may prove itself much longer lived as chunk on my midrif). I feel that Tartine's authors, Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson, are a rarity in the current world of celebrity cooks.  They are very capable chefs who run a successful franchise while managing to publish cohesive, reliable and delicious recipes. I hope there will be more cookbooks and their careers will be long. What this Londoner wouldn't give for a quick stop in for their gougeres, to be devoured in Dolores Park in the afternoon sun (yes it's San Francisco so the sun is as rare as the Prueitt/Robertsons of the world, but there you go... my fantasy, my way).

Not until I accepted that the fragrant quince-pear puree I had lovingly simmered was not going to magically transform into membrillo unless I got on the ball did my baking spree depart from the Tartine book (with a little shortbread cameo from my other desert island book- the Baker's Dozen cookbook). I searched and searched for the recipe that would hit all of the things I wanted in my tea cake- to use up all my puree, to have nice crumb aided by my backstock of semolina and yield deep earthy undertones by using olive oil. On my hunt, I found some nice things to try in the future- Egyptian Basbousa, American Applesauce Cake, Italian Olive Oil Cake, etc etc... Then I just decided to wing it. I mean I used to be a professional baker, right?
Luckily the gods were smiling at me on the first try. I like the cake recipe I came up, although I may try to add a little more acid in the form of yogurt to give it more levity on the next go. But sitting here with a slice and cup of, looking out my window at London at large, this will do.


2 cups hard winter or bread flour
1 cup semolina
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon chunky sea salt (e.g., Maldon)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup + 2 T olive oil
2 1/2 cups quince puree*

Into a mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Add raisins, oil and quince puree. Beat until well blended. Pour batter into greased and sugared 11" x 7"  loaf pan. Bake at 190ÂșC/ 375°F for 55 minutes. Check cake's moisture before removing from oven. I use a fan assisted oven, so if yours is strictly conventional, your time may be longer by around 10 minutes.

*To make Quince puree:
Core and quarter one large quince and 6 small bosc pears. Place in a saucepan with 1/2 cup sugar. Drop in an optional 2" piece of fresh ginger, smashed slightly. Cover with water and simmer until the quince is quite soft, about 2 hours. Allow to cool so easier to handle and then run the solids through a food mill, retaining the liquid and adding this back to the mashed solids. Alternately, I used a potato ricer and then carefully pressed the mash through a medium sieve to remove any pips or bits of skin. This recipe should yield around 3 cups. (p.s. If you have extra it mixes nicely with gin and ice for a shaken cocktail)

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