Friday, February 19, 2010

Kumquat Almond Polenta Torta

I found this recipe on the blog of Half Pint Farm. Half Pint Farm is an organic farm in Burlington's Intervale. The owners and farmers are Mara and Spencer Werston. Now that they are not spending long hours in the fields Mara is posting some of her all time favorite recipes.
This torta is her "go to cake."

Mara talks about food and recipes with a real lust for new flavors and experiences and a dedication to eating memorable food. It is clear when you speak with her that she came to farming because she loves to cook and eat. I feel this is the reason Half Pint Farm grows many items that are not grown by other local farms. During the brief Vermont farming season they have esoteric heirloom tomatoes (one of which I have fallen in love with and will be growing this summer), microgreens, artichokes, cardoons, and I am sure other unusual plants that I would know if I could attend the farmer's market every Saturday.

The torta is from Deborah Krasner's book The Flavors of Olive Oil and originally uses lemon instead of kumquats. The recipe has you puree the entire lemon, except the seeds, and add the puree to the cake batter. I found myself, with Julian, in the produce section thinking about the use of a whole lemon and other citrus fruits that might also work. I decided that kumquats would be well suited to this technique and Julian and I weighed a lemon and then figured out how many kumquats to buy where the same total weight.

If you have never tried a kumquat they are a small citrus fruit that is eaten whole. I have watched people make the mistake of peeling kumquats before eating them and then spitting the flesh out in surprise. The flesh is salty and sour while the thin peel is very sweet. Personally I love the balance of flavors and burst of freshness while eating them fresh. However I am alone in my house in that opinion.

To me it seemed a perfect substitution as the peel is thin and the contrasting flavors of the kumquat is so refreshing. Plus if I baked a cake that only I ended up liking I wouldn't have to share. Well the end result was delicious, everyone agreed on that. There is a pleasant roughness to the crumb because of the ground almonds and the polenta. The flavor is subtly sweet with the best flavor of the kumquats being rounded out by the sweetness of the almonds. This will be made often here.

Kumquat Almond Polenta Torta
(clarifying pictures are below the recipe)

1/2 cup coarse yellow cornmeal or polenta
1/2 cup all purpose flour (I did not use any white whole wheat flour but I will try it next time)
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 cups whole almonds (7.5 oz)
1 cup sugar
15 whole organic kumquats, approximately 35 grams
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (the original recipe calls for a mild one, I only have a very fruity one right now and it was perfect)
1/2 cup milk (I used 1%, but I am sure any milk would be fine)
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp almond extract (Mara uses 1 tsp but I was afraid that would have been too much for the boys, I see no reason to change it next time as I thought the subtle almond flavor was just right with the kumquats)
powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 325° Fahrenheit. Butter and flour a 9 inch cake pan and then place a piece of parchment paper cut to fit in the bottom of the pan and butter that (the original recipe calls for a springform pan and no parchment, rather then search for the pan I added the parchment step)

Mix the polenta or cornmeal, flour and salt in a bowl and set aside. Place the sugar and almonds in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine and chop the almonds finely. Cut the kumquats in to 4 pieces lengthwise and remove any seeds. Add all the kumquat pieces to the food processor. Pulse to chop the kumquats finely and combine all the ingredients, about 45 seconds.

Add the olive oil, milk, eggs and almond extract to the food processor and process to combine and further chop the kumquat pieces. Add the dry ingredients all at once and process to combine well. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick, cake tester or knife comes out clean. Set on a wire rack to cool of for 10 minutes before unmolding.

Serve with whipped cream and raspberry sauce. To make the raspberry sauce just heat some fresh or frozen raspberries with lemon juice and sugar to taste. (I usually use the juice of half a lemon and 2 tsp sugar to 1 cup of raspberries, But I like my sauce a little tart). When it is liquified strain out the seeds and serve. We use it on pancakes and ice cream as well.

Here are some pictures to help clarify how finely ground the ingredients have to be in the food processor. The food processor you see is over 30 years old and is decrepit, there is a crack in the bowl and I have to hold the top down to trigger the safety while processing.

Ground almonds and sugar

Kumquats ready to be pureed with the almonds and sugar

Kumquats, almonds and sugar all pureed

I am going to share this on "The Saturday Blog Showcase" which this week can be found at Thibeault's Table. To join in make a dish from another blog and post about it with a recipe and a link back to their original post. Then add the logo and a link to the showcase. Don't forget to go and see what other people have tried and shared.


  1. Thanks, Robin!! You know, as I was making my (Deborah Krasner's) version recently, I thought to myself that lemon replaced with orange would be fantastic!!! Thanks for adapting it to kumquats (one of my all-time favorite fruits!)! Also, thanks for the sweet shout-out! Also, you should know, the peach tomatoes will indeed be available for sale at our stand all of may for transplanting to your own garden! See you soon!!!
    Mara Welton

  2. What a delicious sounding recipe, Robin! The golf course we used to live on in FL had lots of kumquat trees. I wish I'd had this recipe back then. I will send a link to your site to those friends who still live there & maybe they will try making it. Thanks for sharing it.

    I think you should treat yourself to a new food processor. I got one for Christmas & just ♥ it!! :D

  3. Robin, that does sound delicious. And your photos are wonderful.

    Thanks for introducing me to a new blog.

  4. Great photos, Robin! I love kumquats. I'll have to see if I can find some to try this recipe. Looks delicious -

  5. Shhh, Mara, don't give away the secret of which tomatoes I plan on growing. I don't want everyone else to buy them before I get a chance to.

    Rett, I do want a new food processor, however, I am stuck trying to decide which one to get. The sad part is the motor on mine is still going strong. But if I replace the bowl I need to replace all the blades as the bowl has been redesigned. If you want to make the recipe without the access to kumquats you can also use 1 large lemon instead of the kumquats.

    Thank you Ann and Lori about the photos. Can you tell I took the photos when both boys were at school. Then I just had to sit down and eat the piece of cake.