Lush Life

To be a lush chef, does not mean to drink in excess - this can result in scary fires and bad dishes. A lush chef is one who enjoys gourmet cooking/baking, often with fresh ingredients and the smart use of one's home bar. If there happens to be half a bottle of beer, a glass of wine, or a sip of brandy left over...well, one cannot be wasteful. I give you permission to imbibe.

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The Lush Chef
Twitter: @thelushchef Provenance: Santa Monica Dish: Coq au Vin Spirit: Whiskey Wine: Malbec Beer: Hefeweizen Farmer's Market: Santa Monica on Main Street
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Jun 3, 2014

Fennel & Semolina Cake

Last weekend I had a couple of picnics and a wine tasting to attend, but only one day to really make anything.  I had spied this recipe for Fennel and Semolina Cake on Tasting Table a few weeks ago, and loved how it paired fennel with the fennel and anise-inflected Pernod.  Cake with absinthe?  Yes, please!  Next time I make this, I definitely need to use a larger fennel bulb, and I'll probably add less rose water to the fennel syrup.  Rose water is just so overpowering to me and 1 Tbs seemed like too much to me.  I also don't think you need to soak the cake with an entire 1 cup of syrup (I used a little less).  Plus, that leaves more fennel-flavored syrup for cocktail making and shaking!  Regardless, my friends enjoyed this unusually savory and sweet, and incredibly moist cake to end our various cheese and hummus-filled picnics.  I also used a finer semolina flour, as that was all I could find, and it ended up giving the cake a really lovely texture.

Fennel & Semolina Cake - serves 10-12
Ingredients for the Fennel
  • 3 Tbs fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs Pernod
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbs fennel seeds
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 large fennel bulb, sliced about 1/8-inch thick with the core left intact
  • 1 tsp rose water
Ingredients for the Crust
  • 4 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
  • 6 Tbs light brown sugar
Ingredients for the Cake
  • 2 cups whole milk Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups semolina flour
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 5 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp fennel pollen
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, melted and then cooled to room temperature
- Pre-heat the oven to 350.

To Prepare the Fennel
- In a small saucepan over high heat, add the lemon juice, Pernod, water, sugar, fennel seeds, and salt and bring to a simmer.
- Cook until the fennel seeds become tender (about 15 minutes).
- Strain the syrup into a medium bowl, discarding the fennel seeds.
- In a medium saucepan, add the syrup and bring to a simmer.
- Add the fennel and cook, covered, until tender (about 20 minutes).
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fennel to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and arrange in a single layer to cool.
- Transfer the syrup back into the same medium bowl and add the rose water.
- Measure out 3/4 cup of syrup and reserve any remaining for cocktails!

To Make the Crust
- In a 8x11 baking dish, drizzle the melted butter and sprinkle the light brown sugar evenly to cover the bottom of the pan.
- Arrange the fennel slices on top in a single layer.

To Make the Cake
- In a medium bowl, add the yogurt and milk and stir to evenly combine.
- In a large bowl, add the semolina flour, sugar, baking powder, fennel pollen, and salt, and stir to evenly combine.
- Add the yogurt and milk mixture to the dry ingredients and stir to combine.
- Add the butter and stir.
- Pour the batter into the baking dish.
- Bake until golden brown (about 40-45 minutes).
- Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes.
- Run a knife around the edges of the cake and then cover the baking dish with a large cutting board.
- Carefully invert the cake onto it, and using a toothpick or wooden skewer, poke holes all over the cake.
- Slowly pour the reserved syrup all over the cake and let it soak in for about 30 minutes before serving.