playing with flour

Category: Dessert

Caramelised Pear and Almond Cake

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So it’s been a while huh? I could make excuses but to be honest I just got busy and lazy. I’m finally understanding what it means to be an intern – long days, stressful situations and very little time to do the fun things like baking. I’m not complaining though, I’ve learnt so much already and I’m actually enjoying it which I think has surprised me! When I did get some free time recently I took the opportunity to make dinner and dessert for a fellow intern who had resorted to eating microwaved meals – and this cake was the result.

I’ve made this recipe a number of times and keep coming back to it. It’s a moist dense cake with sliced pears covered in caramel. Yep, it’s as good as it sounds. The almond meal and buttermilk make the cake super moist and as there’s a decent amount of caramel topping it sinks into the cake and runs down the sides – does it get better than that?

Hopefully this recipe makes up for my long absence. I’d recommend not overfilling your pan as you want the caramel to penetrate deep into the cake. I’d also suggest cutting your pears a bit thicker than I did as they have plenty of time to cook through and this will give you a good flavour and texture. If the cake gets dark too quickly cover it with foil for the rest of the cooking time and make sure you cook it only until just done.

Forgive me yet?

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Caramelised Pear and Almond Cake

180g brown sugar
100g unsalted butter, melted
3 ripe pears cut into slices

Preheat your oven to 180° and prepare your baking tin with baking paper. Pour the brown sugar over the base and top with the melted butter. Use a spoon to ensure all the sugar gets coated. Arrange the pear slices on top.

170g unsalted butter
250g caster sugar
3 eggs
250g plain flour
100g almond meal
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
250ml buttermilk

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition. In a separate bowl sift the dry ingredients together then fold into the mixture. Stir through the buttermilk until just combined.

Pour over pears and cook for 60 to 80 minutes until just cooked in the center. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before inverting onto a plate. Best served still warm with ice cream.

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Sour Cherry Torte

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When we first moved cities for work I was worried that I wouldn’t being having spur of the moment dinner parties with a group of fabulous people anymore. Last week I was definitely proved wrong. After a rough week on evening shifts all I wanted to do was have a glass of wine (or two) and eat a lot of food. I was lucky enough to rope in some new friends from the hospital and also convinced a couple of med school friends to travel up to join me. The result was a fun night of conversation and games that was finished off with an awesome dessert.

This torte is fantastic. Crunchy biscuit layer topped with sour cherries and topped with smooth sour cream. Personally I think the biscuit layer was a bit thick, so feel free to use a bit less of the mixture if you’d prefer it a bit thinner. Having said that, it is quite a crunchy base that doesn’t go soggy so a thick layer isn’t a big problem. You could use any sort of berries for the middle layer but I found these fantastic sour morello cherries that worked so well. If you can, I’d highly recommend hunting these down, they work perfectly with the sour cream.

The torte takes quite a while to cook and does tend to go quite brown on top which I was initially a bit concerned about. Don’t stress, this is how it should be. Once the topping appears set it’s ready, just allow to cool completely in the pan and make sure you run a knife around the edges to ensure no juicy bits are stuck before removing the tin. We’ve been eating the leftovers straight from the fridge which is pretty delicious but it is a bit better served at room temperature.

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Sour Cherry Torte

Base

1.5 cups plain flour
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup almond meal
1.5 tsp baking powder
4 oz unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 200º and prepare a springform pan. In a food processor combine all the ingredients and pulse until you get well combined crumbs. Pour into the pan and press in evenly. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool.

Sour Cherry Filling

700g morello cherries in syrup
1/4 cup caster sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup cornstarch

Drain the cherries reserving 1 cup of the liquid. In a saucepan combine all the ingredients with the liquid and heat over low to medium heat stirring for 5 minutes. The mixture should thicken and become fragrant. Allow to cool somewhat before pouring over the biscuit base.

Sour Cream Topping

500g sour cream
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl with a whisk until combined. Pour over the cherry filling and smooth with a spatula. Lower the heat in the oven to 180º and bake the torte for 45-50 minutes or until the topping is set. Allow to cool completely in the pan before removing the tin. Enjoy.

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Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cake

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I was always the kid at school whose birthday fell in the holidays before school started. While it may seem like a great thing to be on holiday it never felt that way for me, I always felt that I missed out on bringing cupcakes to class or getting all the attention for the day from people who wouldn’t otherwise know it was my birthday. As I’ve grown up I’ve realized these things aren’t actually important and now that I’ve started working I’d be pretty happy to still be on holidays come late January! I don’t generally do anything fancy to celebrate but this year I wanted to have dinner with the friends that got me through med school and I was lucky enough to have some of my new colleagues come along too. I find the great thing about starting a new job is meeting new people and although it’s only been a couple of weeks I feel as though I’ve already made some great friends – some of which are people I previously knew (but not well) and some who I’ve only just met. Instead of making cupcakes I decided to make a slightly more grown up birthday treat – chocolate and raspberry truffle cake.

This cake is rich and decadent and a small piece is probably enough (although that didn’t stop some people from having seconds). Layers of light spongy cake studded with raspberries are sandwiched between creamy rich chocolate truffle frosting. The raspberries are tart enough to set off the sweetness and the cake layers aren’t so dense you can’t finish.

I love the technique of pouring the frosting over the cake while it is in the tin to get smooth layers. This saves on frosting time and looks really elegant. You may have to do some touch ups after removing the tin, just use a warm dry spatula to spread leftover frosting where needed. The cake is open to all sorts of decorating possibilities but I loved how simple and classy it looked plain (and this looked even better with sparklers in it at dinner). I apologize for not having a decent photo of the cake cut but it was a dark restaurant – trust me when I say that each layer was defined and evenly spaced and looked fantastic.

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Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Tart

1 cup plain flour
4 tbsp cocoa powder
2/3 cup caster sugar
8 eggs
200g melted butter
1 cup raspberries

Preheat your oven to 180º and prepare two springform baking tins. Beat the eggs and sugar in a bowl until thick and creamy (at least 5 minutes) then sift in and fold through the cocoa and flour. Divide between the two tins then sprinkle the raspberries over the top. Bake for 25 minutes or until set. Allow to cool in the tins.

Truffle Frosting

450g quality dark chocolate
2 cups cream
6 egg yolks
1/3 cup caster sugar

Melt the cream and chocolate over a low heat until melted and smooth. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs and sugar over simmering water for at least 5 minutes or until thick and creamy. Fold the chocolate through the eggs and beat on low speed until cool.

Place one layer of cake in the springform tin then pour over half of the truffle filling. Place the second cake on top then pour over the rest of the frosting, it will run down the sides of the cake. Place in the fridge until cold and set. Carefully remove the tin after warming the sides with a warm cloth.

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Almond and Rhubarb Pannacotta

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Wow it’s hot. The heatwave is starting to have an effect on me, I’m tired and cranky and have no desire to do anything but lie on the couch and read novels. Not that there is anything wrong with that, it’s pretty much a perfect afternoon for me, but it is hard to be productive when you’re melting.  For anyone not in Australia we’re currently experiencing some super hot and dry days, with temperatures exceeding 45° in some areas. It’s been up to 38° here at home and I’ve spent some of those days moving furniture around, which in hindsight was not the smartest idea. Unfortunately my problems are only minor compared to others, as the heat is leading to bushfires throughout the country and many people have lost everything. If you’ve been affected or you’re in a risky area I hope you’re safe and doing all right, my thoughts are with you.

When it’s this warm it is hard to get up the motivation to bake anything and turning on the oven seems ridiculous. This is where these desserts come in. Creamy smooth pannacotta, fragrant with the smell of almonds layered with tangy bright rhubarb – it’s the perfect treat to cool you down.

The almonds infuse really well into the milk and leave a sweet and strong liquid that sets to give a complex and delicious custard. While they’d be fantastic just like that the rhubarb simmered with vanilla gives a great contrast and freshness to keep the dessert from being too heavy. If you don’t have a vanilla pod use a teaspoon of vanilla essence instead. If you buy pre-toasted almonds there is only a small amount of stove work needed, so this is a simple and delicious treat for a hot day.

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Almond Pannacotta

3 tsp gelatine
½ cup sliced almonds
300g cream
80g caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 180° and spread the almonds on a tray. Place in the oven and toast for 5-10 minutes until golden and fragrant. While cooking place the cream and sugar in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Once toasted immediately add the almonds to the mixture and turn off the heat. Cover with a lid and let sit for half an hour to infuse.

Sprinkle the gelatine over the almond mixture and turn the heat back on until small bubbles appear around the edges of the liquid. Stir the mixture thoroughly to ensure the gelatine is dissolved. Strain through a sieve then ladle into glasses or pannacotta moulds. Place in the fridge for half an hour to cool before adding the rhubarb.

Vanilla rhubarb

2 cups chopped rhubarb
½ cup sugar
Vanilla pod

Place all ingredients in a saucepan and heat over medium heat for 10-15 minutes or until the rhubarb is soft, stirring occasionally. Remove the vanilla pod before spooning on top of the pannacotta. Return to the fridge for another hour to set completely.

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