Baking

Pumpkin Olive Oil Chocolate Cake

Pumpkin Chocolate Olive Oil Cake

I’m writing about this lovely pumpkin olive oil chocolate cake from my new kitchen in London. Now, if I lift my head from the computer screen and glimpse at the little back garden just outside the kitchen door I see a quintessentially English photogram. The weather is cloudy, a bit gloomy, chilly but not cold. There’s a mild wind that makes the vine growing along the wooden fence bounce and dance – a slow waltz, maybe. Earlier I saw a squirrel jumping over onto our portion of pebbles. I suspect it’s hiding its acorns in our yard, but I might need to investigate further.

It feels good to be here. This autumn feeling has a soothing effect on me – it slows my pace, makes me more focused. I have skipped this season twice this year. Now I realise that I missed wishing for the comfort of a woollen blanket, of a pot of stew bubbling on the stove for the good part of an afternoon. I now have many such days to look forward to here. Which is why, so as not to arrive unprepared, with me I brought a few recipes to match the spirit of the upcoming season. Long braises and spiced cakes I am eager to try.

But first, this cake.

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Fig Tart with Pine Nuts & Rosemary

This is a tart that came to happen by means of foraged fruits. For figs aren’t the kind of fruits a Venetian countryman or woman would ever buy. You’ll either pick them from the tree in your yard or go out on in the fields and find some there. I have been doing both, reverting to the second option as soon as our young tree was spent.  Even now that the season for figs is coming to an end, I managed to gather enough fruits to try this fig tart twice. After the second attempt, having grown quite fond of its aromatic flair, I was keen to share my impressions (and the recipe) here. I hope I’m not too late, and that you can still find figs where you are, no matter whether in the wild or at the market.

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A Polenta Fruit Cake from Veneto

On 6th of January in Italy, we celebrated Epifania, the day when the three kings show up on the nativity scene, and also, the day when the Befana – the old witch who used to bring gifts to Italian kids before the whole Santa thing came up – descends into people’s fireplaces to fill up stockings. In my sock, I would find the simplest things –mandarins or clementines, a few sweets, perhaps colour pencils. It wasn’t as big of a deal as Christmas, but we all liked to keep the tradition alive.

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Flourless Pumpkin Cake

Far from being a modern take on pumpkin pie, this is a cake that dates back to the end of the 1800s.

The recipe is included with the name of Torta di Zucca Gialla in Italian food bible “Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well” by Artusi. The cake, it turns out, has the marvellous, moist texture of pumpkin pie filling. When you eat it, it feels like biting into a creamy, smooth crustless pumpkin pie, except here the flavour and texture of the pumpkin truly takes centre stage, with cinnamon only playing a supporting role. What holds it together is a dash of almond meal, which helps keeping the texture on the soft, moist side.

To make it less wet, I upped the almond meal game a bit, and included the smallest amount of cornstarch to help with excess moisture (the original recipe calls for breadcrumbs). However, if pumpkin pie filling is your thing, leave the cornstarch/breadcrumbs out altogether to enjoy this creamy delight in its purest form.

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