A friend of mine recently visited Magdalen Islands, an archipelago in the Gulf Saint Lawrence renowned for its gorgeous scenery, thriving fishing industry and delicious terroir products. Even though the Islands are part of the Province of Quebec, going there is quite a trek: from Quebec City, it is a 12-hour drive and a 5-hour ferry ride, or a 3.5-hour flight. Before leaving, my friend generously asked us if we wanted him to bring back some of Magdalen Island’s famous cheeses because not only do they sell them at a fraction of the price on the island, but some of them can be hard to find in stores around Quebec City.
It’s no secret that Quebec has a good reputation in the cheese making world, and recently, Quebec’s federation of milk producers published a website called Our Cheeses, which provides information about most cheeses produced in the province, along with tasting notes, wine pairing information and even recipes. I was browing their site to find new, creative ways to use up the chunk of Tomme des demoiselles that my friend had brought us back when I found this amazing cake recipe. Grated cheese, apricots and pistachios in a sweet coffee-style cake? Yes please! I couldn’t resist this combination of some of my favorite ingredients.
The Tomme des demoiselles cheese is an aged, raw-cow’s milk cheese with pronounced fruity flavors. Because it’s (unfortunately) unlikely that you’ll find this delicious cheese at your local cheese store, I recommend substituting it with cave-aged Gruyère. The addition of such deeply flavored cheese to the cake gives it a deliciously moist crumb and a nutty taste further enhanced by the pistachio nuts. Sweet apricots become rich and creamy, and the lemon zest brightens the overall flavor of the cake. It’s a truly irresistible treat that gets even better with age, when the crumb has moistened evenly and the flavors deepened together. It’s perfect for brunch, as a snack or, of course, served with a good ol’ cup of tea.
Makes 16 squares
¼ cup [60 ml] heavy cooking cream
1 cup [250 ml] grated cave-aged Gruyère cheese, or another firm, aged cheese with a fruity flavor
1 cup [250 ml] milk
1 cup [250 ml] granulated sugar
1 tsp [5 ml] vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lemon, grated finely
½ cup [125 ml] corn flour
1 cup [250 ml] all-purpose flour
1 tbsp [15 ml] baking powder
A pinch of salt
2 tbsp [30 ml] unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature, plus more to grease the baking dish
1 14-oz [398 ml] can apricots, pitted and halved
¼ cup [60 ml] unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 350°F [180°C]. Lightly butter a 10-in x 10-in [25-cm x 25-cm] baking dish (see note) and line it with parchment paper, letting extra paper hang over two sides of the dish (which will help you take the cake out of the dish later on).
In a small pot over low heat, whisk the cheese into the heavy cream until it’s fully melted and incorporated. Take off the heat.
With an electric mixer, beat the eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla extract and lemon zest together in a medium mixing bowl. With the mixer running, slowly beat in the cream and cheese mixture.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt together. Make a nest in the center of the dry ingredients and slowly pour in the liquid mixture, beating until just incorporated.
Pour the cake mixture into the prepared baking pan. Distribute the apricots all over the surface of the cake, hollow side up. Sprinkle with the pistachio nuts, then with the cubed butter. Grate about ½ tsp [2.5 ml] nutmeg all over the surface of the cake. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.
Let cool completely before serving. Keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week, or freeze in portions for up to 2 months.
Note: If you want the cake to be about 1-inch [2.25-cm] thick and ensure that the apricots remain on the surface of the cake, use a 10-in x 10-in [25-cm x 25-cm] baking pan. It’s less commonly found in most kitchens, but just perfect for this cake. If you don’t happen to own such a pan, just use a regular 9-in x 9-in [23-cm x 23-cm] baking pan. It makes the cake a little thicker so be advised that the apricots may sink to the bottom of the cake – but it’ll be just as delicious.
Recipe Credit: Adapted from the website OurCheeses.com.