Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Buckwheat cake (Gateau de blé noir)

Buckwheat. It's grey, it's drab, it looks like Portland cement, but oh how I've come to hold it in complete adoration. Its nutty flavour. Its grainy texture. I love it in all forms - as crunchy grains tossed in a fresh green salad, in delicious buckwheat galettes (oh yes we used to prepare them quite often for dinner), and even as a beverage such as beer! :)

Just the other day, Mum bought some almond-based cherry michel cakes which reminded me of this recipe I came across some time ago on Melissa's much-loved Traveler's Lunchbox blog. Knowing how much Mum enjoys buckwheat like me (and in appreciation of how much laundry she's been doing for me as well heehee), this was one cake that had to be attempted.

Now, before you start going awwwww, cooking for my family isn't like cooking for my friends or for myself and E. Before you even get remotely close to the stove, you get bombarded with a million questions and probably an equal amount of cynical looks from four sets of raised eyebrows. Singapore's a place where you can get plentiful good food anytime, anywhere, so the questions would run from "Are you sure you even know how to ignite the stove" to "Whhhyyy do you even want to cook when you can buy it?". In times like these, I just roll my eyes at them and let my cake speak for itself.

And it defended itself very well. When I bit into a slice at work, I had to hi-five myself. It turned out exactly the way I wanted it to - dark, grainy and lightly zested with orange with a texture akin to fine powdery sablé. I added a good measure of chopped walnuts for an added crunch. The best part? Me Mums loved it. And that totally made my day. :)

Torta di Grano Saraceno (Adapted from The Traveler's Lunchbox)
1 heaping cup (175g) almond meal
1 1/2 cups (200g) buckwheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
finely grated zest of 1 large orange and juice from half the orange (or whole,si tu veux)
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup (175g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
250g sugar, divided
3/4 cup (180ml) milk
4 eggs, at room temperature, separated
1 cup of walnuts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.

Grease a 9-inch/23cm springform pan and set aside. In a medium bowl, stir together the ground almonds, buckwheat flour, salt, cinnamon, lemon zest and baking powder.

In another bowl, beat the butter and 1 cup (200g) of the sugar until fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the dry mixture alternately with the milk until everything is well combined.

In a clean mixing bowl and using spotlessly clean beaters, whip the egg whites with the remaining 1/4 cup (50g) sugar until they form stiff, glossy peaks. Stir one-quarter of the whites into the cake batter to lighten it, then gently fold in the rest. As a final step, fold in the chopped walnuts. Scrape the batter into the greased pan, smoothing the top.

Bake the cake in the preheated oven for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, covering the top loosely with foil if it begins to darken too much. Cool the cake for ten minutes on a rack, then carefully remote the outer ring and cool completely. Store, covered, at room temperature for up to 3-4 days. Dust with a little powdered sugar before serving, if you like. I found it sweet enough though.