Back to it, people.
After a month (January) of being sick as a dog, and most of another month (February) waffling around on how I wanted to train in this cycle, I’m finally back in the groove. Groovy. This means I’m running rather than shuffling, cussing, complaining, whining, and generally being a pain in the butt to those around me. Okay, maybe some of those behaviors are still on display, but I’ve dialed it back. At least a bit.
I still haven’t settled on a race (I’m eyeing a couple in May), but I figured regardless, I needed to get a little more focused if I planned to do anything this spring. So I focused. I got back to meeting my daily mileage goals, threw in a dash of weekly speedwork, and committed to the long runs.
And you know what? Life, once again, became infinitely less complicated.
As much as I like to see myself as some sort of free spirit, the truth of the matter is that I’m much more like an old lady from a 1950’s movie. I like a schedule, structure, routine. I like coffee every morning at 4:30. I like to be in bed by 8:00, thirty minutes of reading, and lights out at 8:30. I like a very early (like 4:00 early) dinner on Sundays. I like Cream of Wheat.
In between all these little
tics idiosyncrasies, I manage to get a lot more done than when I’m just winging it. As much as I long for “the artists’ life”, I believe that I am destined to live something closer to a schoolmarm in a Jane Austen novel. Tim told me I am eccentric. He thought that was a compliment.
So with training back on, race planning underway, and food to be conceptualized, prepared, consumed and written about, my days are once again, full and satisfying (see what I did there? Food pun, he he.) I’ve bought a couple new baking cookbooks (okay, like ten) that I’m dying to get dirty, so I hope you’re in the mood for some more sweet stuff. When I went to culinary school, I always assumed I’d only make savory stuff. But looking back over this blog, I realized a make a hella lot of dessert. Maybe because it is what I crave during the day when I’m doing recipe testing. I mean, you know I have to have “tea” at 4:00, right? (It’s actually coffee with a hunk of dessert, but “tea” sounds more Miss Marple-ish.) Or maybe it’s just because desserts are AWESOME. Or maybe it’s just because I’m an old lady at heart. Or eccentric. Sheesh.
The other day, I was craving a hearty dessert. You know, something with some heft (i.e., not a meringue, not a maccaron, definitely NOT a mouse). I wanted something that was belly filling after my second run and would get me through to dinner. BUT, I didn’t want it to throw me into a sugar crash.
Blood Orange Orange Almond Ricotta Cake
The last time we were in England, I ate the most spectacular Raspberry Almond Ricotta Cake, and I’ve been dreaming about it ever since. When I went a’hunting for some sort of recipe, this recipe came up again, and again, and again. Apparently, it was somewhat of an internet sensation a few months back, but I’m a little slow. It comes from the River Cafe Cookbook series and has been written about and adapted by many. I’m going to adapt it a little bit again, just because.
The first adaptation was that it became Orange Orange Almond Ricotta Cake because I live in the dessert, and apparently, blood oranges are not very plentiful. This doesn’t really affect the taste of the cake, but it definitely cuts down on its covergirl potential – there is just something infinitely prettier about big wheels of red oranges on top of this cake. Oh well.
The second adaptation I made was to double the cooking time. Yes, double. The original recipe (and many subsequent postings) call for 35-40 minutes in a 300 degree oven. When I checked my cake at 35 minutes, it was still jiggly. Ten minutes later it was barely brown. Finally, after an hour and 10 minutes, I had a cooked cake. I have an oven thermometer in my oven, but still felt like I needed to do a little research. Surely, double the cooking time couldn’t just be a fluke. Sure enough, there seemed to be a nearly universal opinion that the cooking time was significantly longer than what was originally published (although many very experienced bakers said they had no problem with the baking time). Anyway, my advice to you would be to check your cake at 40 minutes and then go from there, especially if you don’t have an oven thermometer. Remember, you want a knife or skewer to come out clean when you test the middle of the cake.
A final note on this cake: because it contains ricotta, it will have the consistency of a cross between a cheesecake and an almond cake – creamy and dense. This throws some people. I personally like this type of cake because I like desserts that are on the filling side. I hardly ever use cake flour because I find it too “light and airy”. This cake is for hearty eaters.
Orange Orange Almond Ricotta Cake
adapted from the River Cafe Cookbook series (and many others)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar (tightly packed)
1 1/4 Tablespoon hot water
3 large eggs, separated
2/3 cup sugar
2 medium oranges (blood, if you can find them)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened (30 minutes at room temperature)
2/3 cup whole milk ricotta
1/3 cup cornmeal
1 cup almond flour, tightly packed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup apricot jam for glaze
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Butter a 9 inch round cake pan. Line with parchment paper and then butter the parchment paper.
Mix brown sugar and hot water until a paste forms. Spread into the bottom of the cake pan. While it is tempting to thin this paste, don’t, as it will not caramelize the cake properly.
Place white sugar into a large bowl and zest both oranges being careful to not to grate any of the white parts (the pith) of the orange.
Cut the zested oranges in half. Thinly slice 5 – 7 rounds of orange and lay them over the brown sugar in the bottom of the pan.
Juice the other orange halves into a small bowl, careful to remove any seeds. Set aside.
Add butter to zest and white sugar and beat with a mixer until fluffy (about 7 minutes). Add the egg yolks one at a time until just incorporated.
Add orange juice and ricotta. Mix until smooth.
Add almond flour and cornmeal. Mix until just combined.
In a clean, dry bowl, using clean, dry beaters, whip egg whites and salt until stiff peaks form. Gently fold egg whites into batter.
Scoop finished batter into pan, careful not to disturb the orange slices.
Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until cake is golden brown and a skewer in the center comes out clean.
Cool on a cake rack for 5 minutes before going around the edges with a knife to loosen. Gently invert cake onto the rack.
Heat the apricot jam in a small saucepan just until it loosens a bit and then spread onto the cake for a glossier finish.
If you really want to gild the lily, you can serve this with some freshly whipped cream (um, yes please!), but it really is tasty on it’s own. It also makes a pretty darn good breakfast!