Now that I’m back in Germany, and now that I’m not working 16-18 hour days in the lab, I can get back to my old habit of cooking fun things on Sundays. Today, I’m in a cake sort of mood. One is a salty polenta cake that I learned in Romania, called ghisman. The other is a sweet cake that I invented about a month ago, as a reader has asked me to post the recipe, which I have named crostata di leche asada.
Sundays in Germany are the perfect time to invent things, as everything is closed, including supermarkets, and even Ikea. This means that, if you are missing ingredients in your house you have no chance of popping down to the store to pick them up, so you must either give up on cooking or get rather creative. In my case I found myself with a carton of milk that was about to expire, and so I decided to make some sort of milk pie. However, not having semolina, lemons or puff pastry, therefore unable to make the classic Greek milk pie, and having some eggs that I needed to use up, I would up making an Italian pie crust and a filling very similar to the baked milk dessert I had at a Peruvian restaurant one time, hence the name crostata di leche asada.
So, as always, recipes and pictures below the fold, for those of you who are interested.
Let’s start with the salty cake, ghisman, as it is more simple and straightforward. Of course my boyfriend’s mom does not mess about with scales or measurements, but I watched her make it and weighed my ingredients before copying her, so I reckon I managed to get the measurements quite well. So, for this you will need:
1kg of runny yoghurt (or 1kg of creamy yoghurt and 1 cup of water)
450gr of coarse polenta
250gr of pecorino romano, or other hard sheep cheese
250 gr of mozzarella, or other cheese that melts nicely
6 tablespoons of flour
2 teaspoons of powdered yeast for cakes
250gr of cubed bacon (optional)
The rest is simple. Whisk the eggs and yoghurt together, add the polenta, flour and yeast, and the grated sheep cheese. Cube the mozzarella, squeeze it out a little and add that as well, as well as the bacon, fried to the crispiness you prefer. Then, but a sheet of baking paper in a large cake pan, drizzle a little oil on it, pour the batter in and bake the lot at 180°C for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
What you get is a dense, cheesy cake which can be eaten alone, or as a side dish to a nice vegetable stew.
Now for the more complex one: my crostata di leche asada.
For the crostata base, you will need
a pinch of salt
3 egg yolks
Sift the flour and the salt, and add the cold butter cut in cubes. Make sure to keep everything as cold as possible, including your fingertips by running them under cold water, when you crumble the butter into the flour until you get something that resembles breadcrumbs. Add the yolks and the sugar, and mix them together just enough for the dough to form a ball, wrap it in plastic and let it cool in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
This procedure is the best for a crostata base, but it is also the most technically demanding. Adding egg whites to the dough makes it easier, but also makes the crostata base harder when you bake it. Some people add a pinch of yeast to compensate, but then you risk it rising too much in odd places in the oven and dumping out your filling. If your dough crumbles instead of sticking together, try adding a tablespoon of water. If that doesn’t work, start by adding just half an egg white.
This dough is the base for all Italian crostate, which can be made with every kind of filling, from jam to cream to pine nuts to nutella. If you want to make a lattice over the top, this recipe is enough for a 24cm pie. If, like in this case, you only need a thin base and no lattice, you can stretch it up to a 28cm pie.
For the filling, you will need:
1 liter of milk
1/2 cup of sugar
2 teaspoons of cinammon
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 cup fine polenta
pinch of salt
Add the milk, cinammon, nutmeg, vanilla, sugar and salt to a pot and simmer, stirring constantly. Then add the polenta, and stir for a few minutes until it starts to thicken. Remove from the heat and let it cool.
When it is cool enough to stick your finger into it, slowly add it to 3 whisked yolks, making sure you don’t cook the yolks. When you have added the entire mixture, set aside and let it cool completely.
Whisk the remaning egg whites until they are stiff, and gently fold them into the cooled milk – polenta – yolk mixture.
Now, you can compose the cake!
Take the crostata base out of the fridge and, using the tips of your fingers, spread it in a buttered and four dusted 28cm pie dish. the edges do not need to bevery tall, as the filling will stiffen and stand on its own, so the edges do not need to contain the entire filling.
Poke a bunch of shallow holes into the dough with a fork, then pour in the filling.
Bake the whole shebang at 180ºC for about 45 minutes, or until the top and the crostata edges are a nice golden brown. The final thing looks something like this
It may not look like much, but it’s yummier than it seems!
So, that’s all for today folks, I’m baked out until next Sunday.