By the Book - Week Five

1/31/2016 07:15:00 pm

Some time ago I bought a giant bag of polenta hoping that my previous experience with polenta (bland sludge, oddly gritty, not prepared by me) was simply an outlier.

Hoping it would be like mashed potato, a silky smooth vessel for butter, milk and leftover pan juices, I decided to have a crack at it.

But the thing about mashed potato is that it is fast. It is set and forget.

To make perfect mash all you have to do is put the whole unpeeled potatoes in a microwave container with a few drops of water and cook them for 10 minutes (or at least long enough to be able to spear them with a fork/knife with no resistance). Squish squash through a potato ricer, a dash of milk, a knob of butter, maybe a little sprink of Parmesan, and it's done.

The same cannot be said of polenta. Almost an hour to cook, and a lot of whisking. And then, even when you load it up with butter and cheese, garlic and a splash of wine, it tastes of nothing and feels very strange. Perhaps it really is only good for deep frying?

Faced with the giant bag of polenta and an impending need to strip the pantry bare (more on that another time), I went to the bookshelf.

Yet another Women's Weekly cookbook, imaginatively titled 'Cupcakes and Cookies'. I have cooked from it previously. Once.

By the Book - week five

Polenta and orange biscuits

125g soft chopped butter
2 teaspoons finely grated orange rind
2/3 cup (110g) icing sugar
1/3 cup (55g) polenta
1 cup (150g) plain flour

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease oven trays.
2. Beat butter, rind and sifted icing sugar in bowl until just combined. Stir in polenta and sifted flour.
3. Shape minute into 30cm log, and cut log into 1cm slices.
4. Place slices on trays 2cm apart. Bake 15 minutes. Stand on tray 5 mins before transferring to wire rack.

I iced the first batch with a little bit of lemon glaze. The second batch didn't make it that far because the oven exploded*

The good parts
  • Very easy.
  • Rather tasty. I mixed everything in my kitchenaid, and could quite have quite happily just eaten the creamed butter, sugar and orange rind. 
  • Very fast.  I chilled the dough before cutting, which helped with the shape a lot, but slowed things down a bit. Make sure you leave enough room on the trays though, because they spread like wildfire.

*The less good parts
  • Yup.'s a little gritty. Not bad. Just different.
  • But, more importantly, I have long held suspicions about the thermostat in the oven, but am now convinced that it has gone nuclear. The first batch were well browned, with a few burnt, at 11 minutes. The second batch had burnt to a crisp by minute 7. Blackened, charred coals. And there were some strange chemical smells emanating from the element. Which made a few popping sounds.

I remember now though why I stopped baking. Maybe there is a raw slice recipe in one of my 270 cookbooks...

There's always next week.

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