Olive Oil Cake with Persimmons

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For my birthday last year, my friend and I went to our favorite Italian restaurant in Brooklyn called Lillia. It was 11pm at night, we had ordered two Americanos and a slice of olive oil cake served with whipped cream and fresh persimmons. I still remember the taste of that wonderful cake because not only was it a fond memory, but I was also intrigued by the simplicity of the dessert. It wasn’t fancy at all and tasted like a homemade cake my mom would do – except it had an unexpected hint of olive oil and my favorite fall fruit of all time. I’ve made a couple versions of olive oil cakes since but none of them come close to this fantastic recipe.

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Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit
Makes one 9″ (23cm) cake

300ml (1¼ cup + 2 Tablespoons) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for pan
250g (1 cup +2 Tablespoons) granulated sugar; plus more for pan and finishing touch
240g (2 cups) cake flour*
28g (⅓ cup) almond flour or fine-grind cornmeal (I used almond flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
60ml (¼ cup) amaretto, Grand Marnier, or other liqueur
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
60ml (¼ cup) fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 small eggs, at room temperature

*Substitute cake flour by sifting together three times 238g (1+3/4 cups) all-purpose flour and 24g (1/4 cup) cornstarch.

Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C). Drizzle bottom and sides of pan with detachable bottom with oil and use your fingers to coat. Line bottom with a round of parchment paper and smooth to eliminate air bubbles; coat parchment with more oil. Generously sprinkle pan with sugar and tilt to coat in an even layer; tap out excess (do not skip this step!). Whisk cake flour, almond flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl to combine and eliminate any lumps. Stir together liquor, lemon juice, and vanilla in a small bowl.

Using an electric mixer on high speed (use whisk attachment if working with a stand mixer), beat eggs, lemon zest, and 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar in a large bowl until mixture is very light, thick, pale, and falls off the whisk or beaters in a slowly dissolving ribbon, about 3 minutes if using a stand mixer and about 5 minutes if using a hand mixer. With mixer still on high speed, gradually stream in 1¼ cups oil and beat until incorporated and mixture is even thicker. Reduce mixer speed to low and add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with amaretto mixture in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Fold batter several times with a large rubber spatula, making sure to scrape the bottom and sides of bowl. Gently scrape batter into prepared pan, smooth top, and sprinkle with more sugar.

Place cake in oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 350°F (176°C). Bake until top is golden brown, center is firm to the touch, and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 40–50 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cake cool in pan 15 minutes.

Run a thin knife around edges of cake and remove ring from pan. Slide cake onto rack and let cool completely. For the best flavor and texture, wrap cake in plastic and let sit at room temperature at least a day before serving.

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Olive Oil Ricotta Semolina Cake with Roasted Quince

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I’ve been playing around with this recipe for quite some time now and made several versions of it with different winter fruits. The addition of the semolina and high quality olive oil in the batter makes a tender and light cake that’s complex in flavor. It’s studded with quince, that’s slightly roasted in orange blossom water to keep it firm to the bite, and crunchy blanched almonds – adding yet another contrast of textures and flavors. In the cold long winter days, this fruit dessert is guaranteed to brighten and uplift your mood.

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Recipe extensively adapted from Food52

Roasted Quince:
2 large quince (450g)
80g sugar
25g water
Zest of a small lemon
1½ tablespoon orange blossom water

1. Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C).
2. Peel quince and cut each into 8 thick slices (roughly 450g total). Place the slices in a baking pan. Cover with sugar, water, zest and orange blossom water.
3. Cover the tray with aluminum foil and cook for 35-40 minutes or until the quince is starting to soften.

Cake:
2 large eggs, room temperature
200g granulated sugar
245g ricotta cheese
80ml (1/3 cup) olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon zest
180g flour
80g fine semolina flour
1½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
– Confectioner’s sugar and a handful of blanched almonds for decoration
1. Lower the oven temperature to 350°F (180°C). Butter and flour a 9″ (23cm) springform cake pan and line with parchment paper.
2. In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, beat the eggs and sugar until thick and pale about 5 minutes. In another bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, oil and lemon zest. Pour the cheese mixture into the whipped eggs and mix until combined.
3. Sift all of the dry ingredients directly over the wet ingredients. Mix with a large spatula gently until just combined, using a folding motion.
4. Pour the batter into the cake pan and spreading it out evenly. Arrange the roasted quince slices in slightly overlapping concentric circles until the top of the cake batter is covered. Sprinkle with blanched almonds.
5. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the top is golden brown, the edges are pulling away from the pan, and a cake tester or toothpick comes out of the cake cleanly. Cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes, then turn out to finish cooling on a rack.
6. Dust with confectioner’s sugar, and serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Zopf (Swiss Bread)

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There is something very therapeutic about baking bread, all the mixing and kneading gets me in a good mood. I was intimidated at first from the idea of making bread from scratch because most of us are used to the store bought ones. But you’ll be surprised at how easy it is! I even took pictures of every step to facilitate the process of explaining this recipe.

Zopf is a rich and flavorful bread that is excellent with butter, jam, or cheese. Its name literally means “braid” in German. It is also ideal for sandwiches because it doesn’t contain sugar and it’s very soft and light.

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The first thing you need to do is sift the flour onto a working surface, make a well in the center, and add the yeast, soured cream, milk, egg, butter, and salt.

2

Little by little, work the dough into a ball and start kneading.

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When I’m too lazy I use a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook to knead the dough for 20 minutes (Remember the more you knead the dough, the more the gluten will develop, and the softer the bread!)

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Wait an hour for the dough to rise.

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Divide the dough into three equal parts, then shape into thick ropes.

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Braid the ropes, pressing together the ends.

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Using the same plastic wrap that was used earlier, grease it with olive oil and cover the dough (to prevent the dough from drying)

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Bake for 40 minutes, and you’re done!

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I’m going to talk about the ingredients that are used in this recipe and explain their role in making the perfect Swiss Bread:

  • Yeast is an essential ingredient in bread making and there are two types you can choose from: fresh yeast (a firm, moist block stored in the refrigerator), or dry yeast (small granules– sold in packets). Once the yeast comes into contact with flour, the billions of microorganisms begin to nourish themselves from the sugar of the starch molecules. So they multiply and produce carbon dioxide which gives a fluffy texture to the bread. That’s why raising the dough is one of the most delicate phases in the preparation of bread, and it should be placed in a controlled warm environment (you can use your oven).
  • Olive Oil prevents the dough from drying and forming a crust
  • Salt is crucial to the flavor of bread. It shouldn’t come in contact with the yeast during the initial phase of mixing because it compromises the rising. You can make a small well for the salt in the outside portion of the mound of flour and add it at the last minute.
  • Herbs, Oats, or Dried Fruits give a great aroma and taste. You can add them to the dough before it is left to rise or after the first rising

Did you ever try baking your own bread? I’d love to hear your thoughts or comments!

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Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus 2 hours for rising. Baking time: 40 minutes.

Ingredients: (adapted from Classic Breads)
Juice of Half a Lemon
2/3 cups (150 ml, 5 oz) cream, lukewarm
5 cups (600g) all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp (30g) fresh yeast or 3 1/3 tsp (10g) dry yeast
2/3 cups (150ml, 5 oz) milk, lukewarm
1 large egg, room temperature
7 + 3/4 Tbsp (110g) softened butter, cut in small pieces
2 tsp (12g) salt
Extra virgin olive oil

Directions:
1. In a small bowl, mix the lemon juice with the cream and let sit for 5 minutes. (The mixture will thicken)
2. In the meantime, sift the flour onto the work surface, make a well in the center, and add the crumbled yeast.
3. Steadily pour the milk and the soured cream mixture into the center of the well and mix with your fingertips to dissolve the yeast.
4. Add the egg, the softened butter, and the salt (pour the salt outside of the well- explanation above).
5. Mix and then knead for 20 minutes (you can also use a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook)
6. Place in a bowl covered with plastic wrap and let rest for 1 hour in the oven. The dough will double in size.
7. Transfer the dough to the work surface and, without kneading it, shape into a ball and then divide it into three parts of equal weight.
8. Shape into thick ropes.
9. Lightly flour the work surface and lay the ropes out in front of you lengthwise.
10. Join them at one end and then braid. Finish by pressing together the three ends.
11. Place on baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap greased with oil and let rise for 50 minutes.
12. Brush with the beaten egg. You can enrich the bread by patting on oat flakes, sesame seeds or poppy seeds.
13. Bake in an oven preheated to 355F (180C) for 40 minutes.