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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Yotam Ottolenghi's Splendid Blueberry, Almond and Lemon Cake




            Baking can be a challenge in the heat. But the lure of local berries and the idea of incorporating them into a very simple cake sounds like a great idea.  Especially one like this  can be eaten virtually any time of the day. That seems reason enough to want to run out and make this recipe immediately.   And, of course, the second reason is that it's from Yotam Ottolenghi, the Israeli chef who, with his Palestinian partner, Sami Tamimi, has been shaking up London’s culinary scene since 1999.  He’s best known for his Vegetarian dishes even though he is not a vegetarian himself. I’ve used Yotam’s recipes before and they are always wildly popular.  (See what else we’ve written here about the man and his meals: http://www.chewingthefat.us.com/search/label/Yotam%20Ottolenghi) I have a strong feeling that this recipe will take off too. It’s a snap to make and it couldn’t taste more seasonal. It comes together in an hour and half and most of that time the cake is the oven. It’s perfect for a late morning snack, as dessert with lunch, at tea-time or after dinner with a cup of coffee.  And, of course, there's a great story about how Yotam discovered the wonderful world of berries.

         In last week’s New York Times, Ottolenghi wrote at length about passion for berries.  Growing up in Jerusalem, he was well acquainted with fruits—figs, pomegranates, lemons and dates.  But Israel’s climate is just too hot to support raspberries, blackberries or blueberries.  On a bicycle tour of Europe in the 80s he became enchanted with the small fruits he encountered pretty much everywhere.  Yotam was about to begin studying for a Ph.D when he decided to take a six month course at the Cordon Bleu in London. From there, the Ph.D was abandoned but his baking took off like a rocket. Working with Chef Rowley Leigh at Launceston Place in London, Ottolenghi was introduced to a summer pudding recipe.  This berry-filled, wine-soaked dessert was a real eye-opener.  The only time he’d encountered berries before was seeing them top pastries in Tel-Aviv.  Seeing his mentor use berries with abandon, like Middle Eastern cooks use herbs, was an epiphany for Ottolenghi. He claims to have gone a bit overboard when he first got to know what berries could be.  Here, he’s merged both flavors of his past—almond flour and lemons—with the undeniable appeal of this season’s fresh blueberries.  Here is the recipe.

Recipe for Yotam Ottolenghi’s Splendid Blueberry, Almond and Lemon Cake

Yields 8 servings. Takes 1 ½ hours to make. Cooling Time: ½ hour.  



½ cup (1 stick) plus 3 tablespoons/150 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing the pan

1 scant cup/190 grams granulated or superfine sugar (caster sugar)

1 teaspoon lemon zest, plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice (or more juice as needed)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (vanilla essence)

3 large eggs, beaten

cup/90 grams all-purpose flour (plain flour), sifted

1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder

⅛ teaspoon salt

1 cup/110 grams almond flour (ground almonds)

1 ½ cups/200 grams fresh blueberries

cup/70 grams confectioners’ sugar (icing sugar)



1. Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit/200 degrees Celsius. Grease a 9- or 8-inch/21-centimeter loaf pan with butter, line it with a parchment paper sling and butter the paper. Set the pan aside.

2. Place butter, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed for 3 to 4 minutes, until light, then lower speed to medium. Add eggs in three additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times as necessary. The mix may split a little but don’t worry: It’ll come back together once you add the dry ingredients.



 
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and almond flour. With the stand mixer on low, add the dry ingredients in three additions, mixing just until no white specks remain. Fold in about 3/4 of the blueberries by hand, then scoop batter into the prepared loaf pan.

4. Bake for 15 minutes, then sprinkle the remaining blueberries over the top of the cake. Return to the oven for another 15 to 20 minutes, until cake is golden brown but still uncooked. Cover loosely with foil and continue to cook for another 25 to 30 minutes (less for a 9-inch pan, more for an 8-inch pan), or until risen and cooked, and a knife inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and set aside in its pan to cool for 10 minutes before removing cake from pan and placing on a wire rack to cool completely.


 
5. When cake is cool, make the icing: Add lemon juice and icing sugar to a bowl and whisk together until smooth, adding a bit more juice if necessary, just until the icing moves when you tilt the bowl. Pour over the cake and gently spread out. The blueberries on the top of the cake may bleed into the icing a little, but this will add to the look. Let icing set (about 30 minutes), slice and serve.


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