While I've been told often that I should be morally against the 5 furlough days our local school district is imposing on our schools this year, I'm secretly loving these extra days off. Sprinkled throughout the year, these extra days seem to come at the time when we most need them, and to be honest, I'm quietly celebrating each and every one of them.
My son, a junior in high school, is working harder this year than I ever did even when in college. With A/P English, Honors Chem and Spanish along with the rest of his classes and after school activities, his days last long into the night. I've this year given up waiting for him to go to sleep before closing my own eyes as there is no way I could live on the little amount of sleep that he gets. He's discovered espresso, not for the flavor, but as the caffeine stimulant that helps his mind stay clear just a little longer, and he's ever so welcoming of Saturday mornings where he sleeps till noon and often heads back to bed hours earlier than during the week.
With Valentine's Day, 2013, being one of those beloved furlough days, we embarked on this President's Day weekend with 5 days of no school. Heavenly extra hours are being spent resting the kid's tired bodies, and I enjoyed waking to the sun actually being over the horizon instead of just beginning to erase the night.
As my boy rested his weary head, Liv and I puttered around the kitchen and she proclaimed the moment perfect for baking. Our tree laden with at least 50 perfect lemons, something sweet and tart seemed to fit the bill, and a quick recipe search into my mounds of saved recipes found a Lemon Cornmeal Cake by Abby Dodge. Liv turned her nose up at the sound of the cornmeal, but I told her if she didn't like it we would try something else. Having found Abby's name attached to at least 4 of the recipes I've used in the last few weeks, I had no doubt that this one would be a winner just like all of the rest.
I first "met" Abby when I made her 4 ingredient Nutella Brownies and have been loving her recipes ever since (our last being those fabulous Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies we made for Super Bowl). Taking those Nutella treats to one of Liv's dance events, my baking status rose by leaps and bounds as the girls devoured the little bites in mere minutes. Since then I've noticed that many of the recipes that catch my eye in magazines such as Fine Cooking or various online websites often have the same name, Abby Dodge, attached to the byline.
|Olive Oil Tasting - Puglia, Italy|
Purchased at the olive field itself, our visit to the family owned business gave us an inside look at the production of this liquid gold. Deep in the boot of Italy in the Puglia region, this little farm dates back to 1917 and the oil became a must have when I heard the word "organic". Add to that the tasting we participated in, Liv and my son were the two to insist on the citrus flavor ending up in our suitcase.
Having saved the oil for just such a recipe, we swapped out Abby's butter ingredient for our precious oil and sat back to wait for the finished product. Mixing together a tangy, lemony glaze, Liv enjoyed creating the perfect drizzle and I have to admit that we didn't wait for the cake to cool before slicing ourselves a taste. With eyes the size of the giant lemons from our tree, Liv immediately proclaimed this cake "utterly divine", and she completely forgot that she had questioned the addition of the cornmeal.
Sweet, tangy and with a perfect crumb, I'd suggest making two of these cakes as one just doesn't seem to last very long...
Lemon Cornmeal Olive Oil Cake
Bursting with fresh lemon flavor, this cake mixes together quickly and completes with a beautiful presentation. Sliced into perfect wedges, the glazed slices would be welcomed at any occasion.
adapted from Epicurious and Abby Dodge
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup sugar
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup citrus olive oil (or any light olive oil)
1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbs to 1/4 cup lemon juice ***
Preheat oven to 350º and butter a 9-inch cake pan with 2-inch high sides. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.
In a large bowl combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt, whisking to combine.
In a smaller bowl, combing the buttermilk, eggs, lemon peel, extracts and olive oil. Again, whisk to combine.
Pour the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients, and with a light hand, gently fold the ingredients just until blended. Abby specifically recommends folding, not stirring.
Pour the batter into your prepared cake pan and place into the center of the oven. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean and the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan, 25-30 minutes.
Remove the cake from the oven and run a knife around the sides. Place rack atop cake in pan. Using oven mitts, hold pan and rack firmly together and invert cake onto rack. Remove pan from cake. Place another rack on bottom of cake; invert 1 more time so that cake is top side up.
Allow cake to cool about 10 minutes.
While cake is cooling, whisk together the Lemon Glaze ingredients to your desired consistency. Liv prefers a thicker glaze, but add additional lemon juice for a nice, thinner drizzle if that is your preference. You can't go wrong here.
Drizzle or spoon glaze over cake and if you can, allow the glaze to set. If you can't wait, the cake is delightful warm with the sticky glaze, but a few hours later it's even better.
Thank you Abby for one more wonderful recipe!
***Liv Life Note: While this glaze was made with kids in mind, I'm thinking a delightful and more adult version would substitute Limoncello for the freshly squeezed lemon juice.