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almond polenta tart with sherried plum compote

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Nik Sharma

Hey Friends, I’m a multi-award-winning and best-selling cookbook author and photographer.

One of the things I love exploring on this blog is using grains and flours of all sorts of kinds in my recipes. The options are endless, from wheat to kamut and savory to sweet!  Maria Speck does just the same with her food with passion, and her love for whole grains shows. 

Maria’s latest book Simply Ancient Grains focuses on cooking whole grain and is a spectacular treat. Not only does she include a variety of grains in her book, but she eloquently includes them in a refreshing collection of unique dishes that are flavorful and as delicious as they sound. There are rye waffles with parmesan and rosemary, red rice shakshuka and feta, a teff polenta verde, a freekeh soup with spicy harissa, shrimp and dates, jugu cakes (an African-Indian peanut biscotti), and many more such delicious treats to cook at home and enjoy! Maria also shares several helpful tips and ideas on planning meals for days ahead for busy weeks that I found very useful.

I selected this sweet honey-flavored polenta tart to share with you from her book. It’s a unique way to look at tart crusts! I find the soft texture of corn in polenta very comforting, and how it would taste in a tart had me rather curious. So I had to try this recipe out. The flavors in this dessert are simple yet stand out elegantly. A honey and butter glazed layer of sweet almonds gives a toffee-like flavor and delicious cinnamon and thyme-flavored fresh plum compote served over the polenta tart. A little whipped cream or creme fraîche on the side is perfect with a glass of white wine or champagne (my drink of choice). 

This post was first published on May 20, 2015.

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almond polenta tart with sherried plum compote

  • Yield: 8

Ingredients

For the Polenta 

2 cups/480 ml water

1 1/2 cups/360 ml whole or low-fat milk

1/4 cup/85 g runny honey

1/2 tsp fine-grain sea salt

1 cup/150 g polenta, preferably medium grind

For the Compote and to Finish

2 lb/910 g fresh plums, pits removed and cut into 1/2 to 3/4 in/13 mm to 2 cm pieces (if plums are small, cut into wedges)

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

4 Tbsp honey, or more as needed

1/4 cup/60 ml dry sherry or apple juice

1 Tbsp brandy (optional)

1 Tbsp + 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves (I used lemon thyme)

1/4 cup/60 g unsalted butter, preferably the European-style

1 cup/30 g sliced almonds ( I used slivered)

softly whipped, lightly sweetened heavy cream or creme fraiche for serving (optional)

Instructions

  1. To prepare the polenta, add the water, milk, honey, and salt to a large, heavy saucepan, heat on medium-high, and bring to a bare simmer, stirring occasionally. Using a large whisk, add the polenta in a slow and steady thin stream and continue to whisk for 1 minute. Reduce the heat if the mixture starts to bubble profusely. Reduce the heat, cover the saucepan with a lid, and cook for 10 minutes. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon every few minutes to prevent the polenta from sticking to the bottom. Remove the saucepan from the stove and let it sit, covered for 10 minutes, stirring well once or twice.
  2. Butter a 10 in/25 cm tart pan and place it on a wire rack. Transfer the polenta to the pan and spread evenly to form a smooth layer. You can dip a wooden spoon in cold water and then spread the mixture. The other way to do this is to place a large sheet of clingfilm over the polenta in the pan and spread the mixture out evenly in a layer using the flat base of a measuring cup. Set the prepared tart pan aside to firm for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Prick the surface of the polenta with the round end of a spoon about 12 times by inserting the spoon at a 45-degree angle into the tart. Dip the spoon in cold water between each insertion to prevent sticking. This will allow even baking of the tart and prevent heaving during baking.
  3. To bake the tart, place a wire rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400F/200C.
  4. While the oven preheats, prepare the plum compote. Add the plums to a large mixing bowl. Add the cinnamon, 2 Tbsp of honey, sherry, brandy, and 1 Tbsp of thyme.  Toss gently to combine, taste and add more honey if desired. Cover and chill to macerate, stirring gently once or twice. (I left it to chill for about two hours)
  5. Add the butter and the remaining 2 Tbsp of honey to a medium skillet. Heat on medium and stir occasionally with a spoon until blended. Fold in the almonds and stir until the almonds are coated, and the mixture starts to foam, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately spread the almonds on the surface of the polenta, using the back of the spoon.
  6. Bake the prepared tart for about 20 minutes until the small bubbles appear around the edges and the almonds glisten golden brown. Transfer the tart pan to a wire rack and cool for 20 minutes to allow to set before cutting.
  7. To serve the tart, cut it into 8 wedges with a sharp serrated knife. Place each wedge on a dessert plate and spoon a generous amount of the prepared chilled compote with some juices. Garnish each serving with a little fresh thyme leaves and, if desired, a dollop of whipped cream.

14 Responses

  1. I’ve been on a similar journey with grains, only I tend to go back and unearth the grains my grandmothers used, something I am a little familiar with like millet, buckwheat, spelt, semolina. Surprisingly, as soon as I taste any of my creations the taste of childhood immediately springs back. My brain forgot but my tastebuds remember, which is pretty amazing!
    This polenta tart is stunning, Nik! Just when I think your photography can’t get any better you go a step further.

  2. This sentence……

    "There’s honey and butter glazed layer of sweet almonds that give a toffee like flavor along with with a delicious cinnamon and thyme flavored fresh plum compote that’s served over the polenta tart."

    …perfection.

  3. How much honey goes in the polenta? Listed in directions, but not ingredients list. This tart sounds heavenly!

  4. is it possible to substitute agave for honey? 1/4 cup agave for 1/4c honey? i am also trying to make it vegan so i am going to try earth balance instead of butter and almond milk instead of cows milk. crossing fingers!

    1. Hi Shauna, I think that should work just fine. Good luck with making it vegan, I haven’t tried Maria’s recipe this way but I’m sure it will delicious!

  5. Nick, this looks heavenly and I would love to make it for a small dinner party! I presume that the plum compote is spread over the toasted almonds and not baked or did I miss something?

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