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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Alivenci (Moldavian and Romanian polenta cream cake bars)

The alivenci (singular "alivancă", plural "alivenci") are traditional cake bars made in the Romanian peasant homes for hundreds of years, especially in the north-eastern part of the country, Moldova. Polenta was a staple in their homes, and from here to inventing a sweet dish using the ever present polenta flour it was only a step :). My mother's grandmother, Bunica Sanda, used to make them as well, and although I never got a chance to meet her, I am fond of this family legacy :).
These cake bars are even mentioned in one of the most well-known children's fairy tales, "Capra cu trei iezi" (The goat and her three kids), by Ion Creangă, the most well-beloved peasant story-teller of the country. :)
I'm also very happy to post this particular recipe considering that it will be my 200th entry in the "world kitchen" category. Filling the 200th space with such a traditional Moldavian recipe couldn't be more fit :).
Moving on from the cultural legacy of this dessert to the actual recipe, you'll find that it's easy to make and it tastes delicious :). Here I made it topped with some caramelized apples, for an extra je-ne-sais-quoi, but the traditional version was usually without a topping. I recommend making the topping as well, though :). Enjoy!
Recipe source: Cătălina and my mother's memories combined :).

Last year: Mascarpone marbled brownies.
Two years ago: Baby making and no cooking :).

Ingredients (for a 30 X 20 cm baking tray or even a slightly bigger one):

For the cake:
  • 3 eggs
  • 120 g brown sugar (about 10 tablespoons)
  • 50 g butter
  • 250 g wheat semolina
  • 250 g corn maize (polenta flour)
  • zest from one orange (optional)
  • 250 g mascarpone cheese (or some other cream cheese)
  • 650 g high-fat yogurt (we used Greek yogurt with 10% fat)
  • 200 ml milk + 3 tablespoons sugar as a syrup

For the topping:
  • 2 apples
  • 50 g butter
  • 50 g brown sugar

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C. Butter the baking dish. Mix the eggs with the sugar and melted butter in a large bowl. Add the semolina and the corn maize gradually and mix well. Add the orange zest and gradually add the yogurt, then the mascarpone. When all is evenly mixed, pour it in the prepared baking dish. Put it in the oven and bake it for 40-45 minutes or until golden on top:

Heat the milk and mix it with the sugar to make a syrup. Pour it over the cake:

It may look like it's not absorbing into the cake, but eventually it will. Prick the cake with a fork or a skewer all the way to the bottom and move the milk around once in a while. Leave it for 30 minutes or so and it will absorb the hot milk. Meanwhile, make the topping. Core and dice the apples and put them in a pan with the butter and sugar over medium-high heat:

Stir for 5-6 minutes until they catch a caramel color and the sauce looks sticky. Pour it over the cake:

Allow everything to cool a bit and it's done. Slice and dig in! :)
Serve warm or cold, it's equally good :)


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