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Pear Solo August 20, 2010

Filed under: Beautiful baking — titchandboofer @ 11:39 am
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Dinner has been eaten, an ordinary beef stew with carrot stoemp (trust me, calling it stoemp – pronounced shtoomp – makes carrot and potato mash sound a lot more exciting than it really is). The small one has gallumphed around in the bath, whacking the taps with his fleet of plastic boats. He has had his last, lingering, drowsy breastfeed for the day and gone to bed. The beloved is working the late shift. So here I am, on my nige, not a baked good in sight and the only hope of dessert is a poached pear. They are lovely poached pears, sweet with vanilla and star anise, tender and syrupy. But it’s still just fruit really, isn’t it? Can I be bothered making something else, a biscuit or a spongy pudding? Not really, it’s late. Well, it’s past pensioner hour anyway. Hmph. I have little leftover bits of almond meal. And I have little leftover bits of flaked almonds. Almonds and pear? Pear and almonds? Pear and almonds and cinnamon? Yes. Crumble is the answer – isn’t crumble often the answer? Crumble is quick, buttery and sweet. Crumble will add texture to the lovely pears. Extra crumble will keep for days in a little snack box in the fridge, for emergencies.

Poached Pears & Emergency Crumble

Pears first:

4 beurre bosc pears, not too ripe

1 litre of water

250 grams of sugar

1 vanilla pod

3-4 star anise, more if you love it

Put your water, sugar and spices into a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.

While the pan is coming to a simmer and the sugar is dissolving, peel and quarter your pears. Scoop out the core from each quarter with a small sharp knife and put each piece immediately into the pan. This prevents the pear from discolouring. Find a saucer or small plate with a diameter slightly smaller than your saucepan. Rip off a piece of baking paper big enough to cover the pan. Place the paper directly over the simmering water and rest the saucer on top. This is called a cartouche and it serves to keep the pears submerged while they poach, again keeping them from discolouring.

Let the pears simmer for 25-35 minutes, until tender when poked with your small sharp knife.

Allow to cool. There’s something a little odd about hot poached pears, especially if you’re like me and you eat them with natural yoghurt. Plus, allowing them to cool intensifies the flavour of the spices. I pour the whole contents of the pan into a watertight plastic container and tuck them in the fridge door. They will keep for 5 or 6 days and are tasty on muesli, on their own, with a dollop of cream or yoghurt, or with some almondy crumble.

Crumble next:

1/2 a cup of almond meal

1/4 of a cup of flaked almonds

1/4 of a cup of brown sugar (not firmly packed)

1/2 a teaspoon of cinnamon (you could use more but I ran out after 1/2 a teaspoon)

25 grams of unsalted butter at room temperature, chopped into small pieces

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius (160 fan forced)

Line a baking tray with baking paper

Put all your dry ingredients in a small bowl. Add the butter and rub it into the mixture using your fingers. You don’t have to be too thorough, just rub the butter in until you have a coarse, crumbly texture that holds together if pressed. Rubbing in will also break a few of the almond flakes, which is no bad thing.

Scoop the mixture onto your prepared tray and press into a large, biscuit-like shape, about 1-1.5cm deep.

Bake in the oven for 6-8 minutes, until golden. Allow to cool on the tray, then break into chunks.

Serve with a few pieces of poached pear and a scoop of natural yoghurt or cream.

If you have leftovers that you want to be creative with, you could soften a few scoops of vanilla ice-cream, break some chunks of crumble into it, mix thoroughly and return to the freezer for a while. In summer, eat emergency crumble with fresh fresh strawberries, tiny basil leaves and thick cream. Mmmm, summer. I’m almost ready for some hot weather again, for sunshine and cold drinks, bare feet and juicy peaches. In the meantime, I’m heading back to the couch, to a woolly blanket, a mug of tea and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. Goodnight.

 

Sweet Saturday Part 2 August 1, 2010

Filed under: Beautiful baking,Cakes to covet — titchandboofer @ 8:34 am
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With only two weeks to go until the small person turns one, I have been doing some serious thinking about his cake. My original wish was to make the Australian Women’s Weekly Birthday Cakes number 1 cake – a great big chocolate cake in the shape of a 1, covered in buttercream icing and studded with Smarties. Then I got to wondering, what if I could make the inside more exciting? What if the buttercream was a light, mousse-like ganache? What if the Smarties were….well, still Smarties? After all, the small person doesn’t eat actual food, unless you count dry cornflakes and the occasional pea. The only people really eating birthday cake will be all grown up and appreciative.

Anyhoo, I was having this most serious of conversations with The Nanna and describing how I was currently imagining a pear and hazelnut cake. Lo and behold, she was in possession of the following recipe, so what else was there to do but have a test run?

Dark chocolate, pear & pistachio cake

from Tartine via Gourmet Traveller online

200 grams of dark chocolate, 70% cocoa solids, broken up coarsely

70 grams of pistachio kernels

150 grams of unsalted butter at room temperature

150 grams of caster sugar

3 eggs

150 grams of plain flour

1 teaspoon of baking powder

1 pear (I used a William), peeled, cored and chopped

Ganache

150 grams of dark chocolate, 70% cocoa solids, chopped coarsely

150 mls of cream

Preheat oven to 160 degrees celsius. Butter and line a 22cm springform tin.

Pulse the chocolate and pistachios in your food processor until coarse crumbs form, then set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until well combined.

Fold in the flour and baking powder, then the pistachio and chocolate mixture.

Lastly, fold in the pear.

Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 35-40 minutes, until a skewer poked into it comes out clean.

Cool in the tin for ten minutes, then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.

For the ganache, place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream to simmering in a small saucepan, then pour over the chocolate. Stir until silky smooth, then set aside, stirring occasionally until thickened. Spread over the cake, serve and devour.

Is it what I want for the small one’s birthday cake? Well, no. It’s a little too pudding-y to carve into the shape of a number 1. But is it tasty? Oh yes. Chocolatey, gooey with ganache, great texture. I’d be tempted to add another pear, although it may make it even more pudding-y. You could use almond or hazelnut instead of pistachio and still get a great result. And it’s heaven with some of Alex’s Best-Ever Creme Anglaise – another recipe for another day.