Delicious and wholesome, this polenta cake with apples and raisins is the perfect antidote to the excesses of the past month. Baked throughout central Switzerland, this particular variety comes from the canton of Nidwalden.
Marianne Kaltenbach's Aus Schweizer Küchen
The recipe comes from Marianne Kaltenbach's seminal work Aus Schweizer Küchen, a glorious tour through the food and food customs of all 26 cantons. Not only is it filled with recipes, but it's also peppered with lovely illustrations and bits of history and lore.
The book is categorized by the month, focusing on what's in season and what holidays are celebrated. It's a journey through the year, through the cantons, and through the heart of Swiss cuisine.
Marianne Kaltenbach, born in Zürich in 1921, first studied pharmacy, but later became a celebrated cookbook author and food writer, winning acclaim for books like this one that marry recipes with the customs surrounding food. Much lauded during her lifetime, she passed away in 2005.
My Aus Schweizer Küchen is an old version that I picked up at Bern's Bücherbergwerk (an excellent source for all used books, especially old cookbooks), but it can also be bought new, directly from the publisher.
Pretty and simple, this cake is perfect for tea...or breakfast. Marianne Kaltenbach suggests serving it with Ländlermilchkafi—a mug of half strongly brewed coffee, and half warm milk.
100 g raisins
tea or booze for soaking
1 litre milk or water (or a mix)
200 g cornmeal (maisgriess)
50 g semolina (weizengriess)
pinch of salt
60 g butter
60 g sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon
3-4 apples, thinly sliced
cinnamon, sugar, and butter
Preheat oven to 190 C / 375 F / gas mark 5.
Butter a 24 cm (9 inch) springform pan.
In a small bowl, immerse your raisins in some warm black tea or booze (rum or calvados work well) and let them soak until you've prepared the cake.
In a large saucepan, bring the milk/water to a boil and add the cornmeal, semolina, and salt. Lower the heat and cook for about 15-20 minutes, stirring often, until it is thick and creamy.
Add the raisins, a tbsp or so of the soaking liquid, sugar, butter, and cinnamon.
Pour the mixture into your buttered pan and smooth the top. Add the slices of apples decoratively.
Sprinkle the top with cinnamon, sugar, and a few flakes of butter.
Bake for about 30 minutes or until the cake has set and the apples are beginning to shrivel at the edges.
You could use coarse or medium polenta for this recipe—though coarse might take a bit longer on the stove.
I've used gala apples here, but other sweet or slightly sour crisp apples would do. The cake gains sweetness from the fruit, so you don't want something too sour. A mix of different apples would also be nice.
This cake is not a light, dry, or fluffy kind of cake—it is quite firm and dense...and delicious.
For a gluten-free version, skip the 50 g of semolina and up your cornmeal to 250 g.