Sunday, 3 April 2011

Rhubarb & Ginger Polenta Cake

Rhubarb & Ginger Polenta Cake

The English forced rhubarb season seems to have been longer this year, and I've still not run out of things to do with it.  Having allowed my allotment rhubarb to do its own thing this winter (you should only force a plant every other year - by covering the crown with an upturned bin to block the light - so that you don't exhaust it), I still have that to look forward to a little later.  The flesh will be denser and less sweet then, and more suitable for rhubarb crumble.  Meanwhile market availability of the beautiful pink sticks of the forced kind is almost at an end so I'm enjoying its final fruiting in such treats as this gorgeous Polenta Cake.  The rhubarb needs to be poached with less sugar than if you were to use it as a compote due to the sugar content of the cake.  The polenta adds a pleasing crunch to the soft slipperyness of the rhubarb.  My recipe was, as so often, influenced by the brilliant Nigel Slater, though I've opted for ginger as my spice and made a smaller cake.

Rhubarb & Ginger Polenta Cake
(for an 18cm cake - enough for 6)

400g forced or young, pink rhubarb
50g caster sugar
80g coarse polenta
140g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
100g caster sugar
100g cold butter, diced (plus a little extra for greasing the cake tin)
Grated zest of half an orange (optional)
1 medium egg mixed with 1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon demerara sugar

Pre-heat an oven to 160C.  Wash and slice the rhubarb into 3cm batons and place in an oven dish and cover with the 50g of caster sugar.  Cover with foil and cook for 35-40 minutes.  The fruit should be soft but still retain its shape.  Drain and keep the juice separate.  
Turn the oven up to 180C.  Butter an 18cm (deep) cake tin.  Mix the polenta, flour, baking powder, caster sugar and ground ginger together then rub in the cold, diced butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Gently stir in the orange zest and egg and milk to form a slightly sticky dough.  Cover the base of the tin completely with two thirds of the mix, place the rhubarb on top leaving a 1cm edge around free of fruit.  Place the remaining soft dough on top in random dollops but be a little more particular around the edge so as to contain the fruit when baking.  Sprinkle the tablespoon of demerara sugar on top.  Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown.  Leave for 10 minutes before turning out.  I think it needs no accompaniment but you could serve it with the saved juice if you wish or a little cream or crème fraîche.