Olive Cake

135 Comments

In the fall of 2015, my husband and I spent a lovely vacation in the Provençal countryside with our friend Stéphane Gabart. If you’re not familiar with him, you should be. He’s a professional culinary guide, chef and photographer. View his inspiring work at his website Stéphane Gabart.

Before this trip I’d already visited him twice – once with my daughter, and the other time with a girlfriend.

This trip was different in that we traveled from Bordeaux through Provence, ending up at le Côte d’Azur. So for two full weeks, we really saw Provence, thanks to the itinerary Stéphane customized for us. I wasn’t familiar with many of the villages, like Boulbon, Gordes, Grasse, and Tourrettes. All were awe-inspiring.

Near Aix en Provence, we visited a working olive farm, Bastide du Laval, had a tasting, and walked the trails amongst the olive groves.

This photo shows Niçoise olives ripening.

At every happy hour in Provence, along with our cocktails, we were served olives. Some were whole, some were made into tapenade, and all were delicious.

At one hotel we were served olives with what I’m sure was olive cake – a savory quick bread baked in a loaf pan, called cake salé in France.

The olive cake I’m making today is reminiscent of the lovely bread I enjoyed while sipping rosé underneath golden sycamores. Who doesn’t love that?!

This is the recipe I’m using, although I can’t credit anyone or any publication; I couldn’t even find it online.

Savory Olive Cake

I pretty much made the recipe as is, except for increasing the cheese to 7 ounces, all grated, and omitting the ham.

 

The bread/cake turned out perfectly.

I served it still warm with cheese, olives, salami and oven-roasted tomatoes.

I think the cake would have been fine with just the olive oil and tapenade, but the chopped olives added a nice texture.

Next time I will make this olive cake the same way.

note: I omitted the ham in this specific recipe, but if you want something more fun, check out my raclette quick bread, pictured below.

It contains sun-dried tomatoes, pancetta, raclette, olives, and herbs. It just shows how creative you can get with a basic savory quick bread recipe!

Raclette Quick Bread

51 Comments

For those of you who don’t know what a quick bread is, well, it’s just that – a quick bread! As opposed to slow bread, you could say, or a yeasted bread, which can take hours to prepare and bake.

A quick bread utilizes baking powder as leavening that lightens the bread as it bakes, as opposed to yeasted breads that utilize yeast.

Besides being quick, quick breads are extremely easy. You mix up ingredients much like you would muffins or pancakes, whether sweet or savory. You just have to respect the ratio of wet to dry ingredients. Think about it. A cookie dough is different from a cake batter for a reason.

Today I decided to make a savory quick bread using some leftover raclette that I had frozen after Christmas, and a few other goodies I gathered together. If you decide to make this bread, you can completely change up the ingredients to make this bread your own.

This kind of bread is also referred to in France as a cake salé, a savory “cake” made in a loaf pan.

Raclette Quick Bread

2 ounces jarred sun-dried tomatoes in oil, slightly drained and chopped
6 ounces pancetta, diced
2 tablespoons butter
16 ounces milk
2 eggs
8 ounces plain Greek yogurt or ricotta
1 teaspoon salt
Leftover pancetta and fat
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh herbs, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
10 ounces grated raclette or other semi-firm cheese
4 ounces of chopped olives

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the pancetta and butter together in a skillet over medium heat. A little browning is good. Let everything cool, and remember to save the fat in the skillet to use in the recipe. I actually discovered diced pancetta at my grocery store!

To a large mixing bowl, add the milk, eggs, yogurt and salt and whisk until smooth.

Add the pancetta and its fat, and the herbs. Stir until smooth. I used fresh parsley, rosemary, and oregano.

Using a spoon, gradually add the flour and baking powder and stir until the flour is almost combine with the wet ingredients.

Add the grated cheese and olives and fold them into the batter gently; do not over stir. And another discovery – pitted Castelvetrano olives! Thank you Amazon.

Divide the batter in between two greased 8 x 4″ loaf pans. Place the pans in the oven for 45 minutes.

To make sure they are cooked through, use a cake tester or long toothpick to check them. No doughy substance should be sticking to the tester. If there is, the breads need to be cooked for maybe five minutes longer. An alternative is to lower your oven to 325 degrees to help the breads cook in the middle. Sometimes it works to turn off the oven and let them sit for 10-15 minutes.

There should be a little rise along the middle of the bread, and it should also be firm to the touch.

Let the breads rest in the pans for about 30 minutes, and then remove them to cool completely.

Serve these breads as part of a buffet, or for an hors d’oeuvres platter.

They’re best warm or at room temperature. When the bread is warm it’s luscious and cheesy and flavorful.

Can you imagine serving this bread with a bowl of tomato soup?!

This bread would be great with smoked cheese, bits of chorizo, and chopped cilantro. Or, roasted red bell peppers, Gorgonzola, and basil. Get creative!

For a similar bread, click on Olive Cake for another delicious cake salé, pictured below.

Royal Banana Chocolate Bread

55 Comments

The royal part of this quick bread is the fact that it is the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle’s, recipe.

The story goes that when she and her husband, Prince Harry, visited Australia in October of 2018, Her Royal Highness baked the now-famous banana bread in the kitchen of Admiralty House in Sydney. It was after a long day of engagements, well into her pregnancy.

To quote google, “As if juggling pregnancy, jetlag and 16 days of speeches, meetings and handshaking with Prince Harry wasn’t enough, the Duchess took it upon herself to make homemade banana bread for morning tea.”

Okay, well I think most of us who’ve been pregnant could have managed all of this and more, but whatever….

The bread isn’t just your ordinary loaf. It has crystallized ginger, chocolate chips, and, as the Duchess put it, “too many bananas.”

The recipe might not be the exact recipe of HRH, because I saw many versions online, some containing walnuts, maple syrup, and cinnamon, but the bread has indeed become famous.

This is the recipe that my sister has always used, and she highly recommends it. Me? I hadn’t even heard of HRH’s banana bread. But it is good!

Royal Banana Chocolate Bread

3 very ripe bananas, mashed
4 ounces unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated ginger*
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9 x 5″ loaf pan with butter; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the mashed bananas, melted butter, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth and evenly combined.

Add the grated ginger, flour, baking soda and salt. Stir just until combined with no dry spots. Stir in the chocolate chips and crystallized ginger.

Pour batter into greased loaf pan and bake for 60 minutes, or until bread has risen, is golden brown, and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Remove the bread from the loaf pan and let cool completely at room temperature before slicing and serving.

* Instead of fresh ginger I opted for 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger. I was worried that I couldn’t smoosh and properly disperse the fresh ginger.

The banana bread is very good, and somewhat unique. I’m glad I used the ground ginger.

I had to try it warmed with butter, although the bread itself is moist.

It’s certainly pleasing enough to be not only a snack but a dessert.


HRH the Duchess obviously has a loving heart and great sense of community, because she helped compile a cookbook, entitled Together: Our Community Cookbook, published in September of 2018 and not yet available in the states. Proceeds benefit the Hubb Community Kitchen, located in London.

Quoting google, “The Hubb Community Kitchen is a group of women who have come together to prepare fresh food for their local community. After being displaced following the Grenfell tower fire, some of the local women needed a place to cook fresh food for their families.”

Amarena Cherry Cake

68 Comments

I always have Amarena cherries on hand, because my husband loves Manhattans, and I put them in his cocktail. I’ve also used them in sangria, but never baked with them. Until now.

If you buy Italian Amarena cherries, via Amazon, the beautiful jar has a recipe attached for a cake using them, along with this terrible photo. It looks like my grand daughter made this cake!

My cake definitely turned out prettier, and more what this cake is meant to look like!

On the left, below, are the cherries I order from Amazon. Trader Joe’s also sells these cherries.

It’s challenging to describe Amarena cherries. They’re almost candied, but not really. They’re not as sweet as a Maraschino cherry. And they come in a lovely cherry syrup. They would be wonderful on ice cream, or topped on buratta!

I’ve also seen Amarena cherries in biscotti, at the blog Marisa’s Italian Kitchen. I cannot wait to make those!

Amarena Cherry Cake with Chocolate
Cake with Amarena Cherries and Chocolate

200 grams Amarena cherries, drained
2 tablespoons of the syrup
8 ounces butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup white flour
1/2 cup fine-grained cornmeal
1 cup powdered sugar
3 large eggs, separated
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup Grand Marnier liqueur
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt

Sift together flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt; set aside. Beat butter with powdered sugar until light.

Beat in egg yolks, one at a time, until each is fully incorporated. Beat in orange liqueur and the syrup. Stir in the dry ingredients.

Beat the egg whites to a soft peak; fold in gently. Fold in the cherries and chopped chocolate until just incorporated.

Bake in a greased and floured 9” cake pan (loaf pan) at 375 degrees for approximately 65-70 minutes. (I baked mine at 350 degrees and removed it after 45 minutes.)

I’m sure by now you know that this cake is exceptionally good. How could it not be with these cherries and chocolate together?!

Warmed up, served with unsalted butter, was heavenly.

In the photo of the recipe, shown below, the name of this cake is plum cake. I consulted my friend and Italian cooking expert Stefan, from Stefan Gourmet, to help explain why it’s called plum cake when there are no plums.

“It is not necessarily a cake with cherries that is called a plum cake in Italy. Any cake that more or less follows the “quatre quarts” recipe is called a plum cake in Italy.

Originally, a plum cake is any cake that has dried fruit in it, like prunes or raisins. The word “plum” is used loosely. In Italy, plum cake is thought of as a recipe from England. I believe that nowadays a plum cake is usually called a fruitcake in England.

In Italy, the name plum cake is used for any cake that is rectangular and has flour/sugar/butter/eggs as the main ingredients.

A cake in Italy that is rectangular with flour/sugar/butter/eggs plus cherries would probably be called a plum cake, or more completely a “plum cake alle ciliegie” (literally: plum cake with cherries).”

I hope that helps! It’s still a little confusing to me. This photo shows part of the recipe.

Achiote Cornbread

18 Comments

When I first tried cornbread after moving to Texas a million years ago, it was way too sweet for me. Unnecessarily sweet. And it was always served with honey butter! But when I began making cornbread from scratch, ignoring the sugar, I liked it much better. Besides, corn is already sweet!

The thing I’ve learned about making cornbread is that you can do so many different things to it to make it your own, and really compliment whatever entrée you’re serving it with. Cornbread can be Southwestern with the addition of chipotle chile peppers, or it can be Mediterranean with the addition of olives and feta. You can herb it up in the summer, or add any kind of flavor during the winter months like sun-dried tomato pesto. And, of course, you can always add cheese!!!

Today I wanted my cornbread fairly simple, but I wanted a little flavor enhancement and beautiful color from achiote oil. So here’s my recipe for skillet cornbread with achiote oil.

Achiote Cornbread

Dry Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1/2 cup white flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Wet Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons achiote oil, plus a little more
6 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Have a 10″ cast-iron skillet on your stove.

Get your dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Set aside.

Place the buttermilk, eggs, and achiote oil in a medium bowl. Whisk until smooth. Have your melted butter handy.

corn6

When your oven has preheated, turn on the heat under your skillet and let it pre-heat.

corn3

Combine the wet ingredients, including the melted butter, with the dry ingredients, whisking just until smooth.

Using a little achiote oil, grease the skillet. Then pour the batter into the hot skillet, and immediately place it in the oven.

Bake for 18-20 minutes. It should be nice and golden and the middle should be somewhat firm to the touch.

Remove the skillet from the oven and let the cornbread cool a little for about ten minutes. Loosen the sides, then remove the cornbread onto a cutting board. It also works to flip the cornbread upside down on a cutting board.

Slice into wedges and serve warm! I recently served the achiote cornbread with Cuban black bean soup.

I prefer using corn flour or finely ground corn meal if you can find it.