Treat your tastebuds to an unconventional cake, with this sweet and nutty polenta almond crumble cake recipe…
Polenta is perhaps one of the oldest dishes known to Italy. Made originally from any pulse – often a mix of spelt and rye – it was boiled to a thick gruel, with cheese or herbs added when they were available.
The polenta we know today is made from maize flour or corn (gran turco) and was imported to Europe from America in the 16th century. Readily available, it became the staple food of the poor, a symbol of cucina povera.
Today, polenta has achieved a popularity that extends way beyond Italian national borders. Just like pasta and rice, it is a staple that is versatile, inexpensive and offers endless culinary opportunity for practically any occasion.
That said, unless you live high in the mountains, Italians tend not to eat polenta in the summer months. It’s considered a comfort food of the highest order – and they love it – but it is best cooked on cooler days.
This Italian almond crumble cake is the ultimate in comforting food, and is a novel way to use polenta for a sweet treat.
This cake is traditionally made using half polenta and half plain flour.
The origins of this simple cake date back centuries and it’s always a pleasure enjoying it with a glass of sweet white wine after dinner and watching a group of Italians arguing about whether it originated in the provinces of Mantova or Cremona in Lombardy or just across the border in my home province of Piacenza in Emilia-Romagna.
Whichever side you choose, everyone agrees this is not a cake to cut with a knife. Traditionally it’s broken into pieces and shared by hand.
TIP The name Sbrisolona translates as ‘crumbly’, so don’t be alarmed when yours is just that. The precise measurements will vary according to the providence of your almonds, the vagaries of your oven, and – most importantly – your own personal preferences, so do experiment with quantities and temperatures.
Almond crumble cake | Sbrisolona
➤ SERVES 4
➤ PREPARATION 10 minutes
➤ BAKING 30 minutes
- 120g almonds with skins
- 100g plain flour
- 100g polenta flour
- 100g granulated sugar
- 1 tsp of vanilla paste
- rind of 1 organic unwaxed lemon
- a pinch of salt
- 1 large free range egg yolk
- 100g unsalted butter
- Toast the almonds lightly in a heavy-based pan. Leaving a dozen or so aside, grind the rest in a food processor to a fine crumb. Combine the almond crumb, the two flours, the sugar, the vanilla, the lemon rind and a pinch of salt, and mix well.
- Add the egg yolks and mix again. Finally, chop the butter into small cubes and add to the mix. Amalgamate the butter with the dry mix as you would when making crumble, with the tips of your fingers, until you have a crumbly mix.
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC/Gas Mark 4. Pour the mixture into a 20-22cm low-based round tin. Press down and level the mixture uniformly. Sprinkle with a little sugar and add the remaining almonds, pressing down gently. Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes then lower the oven to 160ºC and bake for a further 15 minutes, or until golden. Allow to cool completely before removing from the tin and serving.
Recipe and photo by Mario Matassa
Find more recipes in our archive.