A year ago today I opened Poires au Chocolat and posted for the very first time about a Lemon Curd Cake. My relationship with blogging since then has been a little turbulent - at first, even being without a kitchen at university couldn't stop the outpour of words and photos. But then as my university year ended and other things started to happen, I stopped posting. I didn't stop cooking but I was stuck for words. I would bring up a new post and stare at the blank screen with a sharp pang of regret as the words clogged somewhere within.
After a smattering of posts in the second half of last year, 2010 brought a new enthusiasm and the words have started to flow once again. I joined the Daring Bakers and felt the comfort of community while pushing my boundaries in the kitchen. I've started to get more and more comments and visits and every one is heartening and brightens my day. I've fallen in love with blogging again.
I promised in that very first post that I would leave my rhaposodizing about pears and chocolate till a later date. In the end I never quite got around to posting about this cake - the cake that started it all.
This was the first recipe I created that really worked - my first 'eureka' moment. I can remember it very clearly, standing in our little kitchen and eating the first bite. I was so proud of myself. This blog is named after that moment.
Since that day I've adapted a few things, but it is the same cake at heart. It's a wonderful combination of sweet, soft chunks of pear that nudge against the tender crumb of the bittersweet dark chocolate which melds with the cake that encases them both. It's a simple cake, but a beautiful one.
Unfortunately, as you have probably already noticed, this loaf sank in the middle. I forgot to put a sheet of tin foil over the cake before placing it in the oven, and so I had to open it up after ten minutes to salvage the top and low and behold, it sank like the Titanic. It still tasted wonderful so I decided it wasn't the end of the world. I know the recipe is reliable when you don't give it a good blast of Alpine air mid-bake.
I also have something to admit. This year has been a year in which I've found out a lot more about myself, found love and found a new dream: when I finish my degree and leave Oxford next June, I want to train as a pastry chef.
I've known for a few months but I find it hard to tell anyone, to let my precious dreams out of their cocoon. It felt like my ambition was a delicate bubble - I didn't want to give anybody an opportunity to burst something so important to me. Sometimes I worry that telling someone is like claiming some kind of superiority, a talent. I don't like the feeling that everything I make might be scrutinized to see if it is 'good enough'. Yet I've come to realise that I have to accept my perfectionism and allow that I'm no chef yet - I have so much to learn and that's okay. I'm at the beginning of the path and everyone has to start somewhere.
But I don't want to hide my dreams for another moment - this is my passion.
*** I have updated this recipe - see this post if you want to make the cake (I've kept this one up for nostalgic reasons) ***
Pear and Chocolate Loaf
(A Poires au Chocolat recipe)
50g light brown sugar
75g caster sugar
135g self raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 ripe pear
60g dark chocolate (I use at least 70%)
Preheat the oven to 190C. Roughly chop the chocolate. Peel the pear and chop it into small chunks, trying to save any juice in a small bowl. Dry out the pears on a few sheets of kitchen towel. Weigh out the flour into a biggish bowl. Cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Beat the eggs together separately. Add a little bit of egg and a teaspoon of the flour and beat well. Repeat until all of the egg is incorporated. Add the baking powder, dried pears and chocolate to the flour bowl and toss until the pears are coated in flour. Tip this mixture on top of the creamed butter and sugar and fold until incorporated. Fold in any remaining pear juice gently. Spoon into a lined loaf tin and level off. Cover with a sheet of foil and put into the oven. Bake for 30 minutes then remove the foil quickly. Bake for another 5-10 minutes until golden brown and springy. Rest for 5 minutes in the tin before removing to a wire cooling rack. Do try a slice while it's still warm.