Saturday, 28 July 2012
Despite being a humble loaf, this cake always finds a way to be the centre of attention.
It was the cake this blog was named after (as well as the combination being one of my favourites - I often have a bowl of freshly chopped pear laced with melted dark chocolate for dessert) as it was the first recipe I created from scratch that I loved. It was alluded to in my very first post.
It was the cake I chose for my first blog anniversary post in 2010. In the post I admitted and announced to the world (and to myself, really) that I wanted to make baking my career and train as a pastry chef.
It was also the cake my agent, Juliet, picked to try when we were first talking about a book - thankfully she liked it.
At the beginning, it showed me that I could bake.
Ever since it has taught me that I'm human and that I have to accept my mistakes.
The first time I posted about it, on my blog anniversary, it sank. I'd foolishly opened the door early on, momentarily forgetting the consequences of alpine air on rising cake batter. I posted about it anyway, sunken pictures and all.
Then there was last week.
We've been doing lots of decorating in the past few weeks (painting several rooms, sanding and varnishing wood floors, moving heavy furniture etc etc). It's chaotic. Though the kitchen isn't being decorated, it's full of furniture from other rooms. To open the oven I have to crawl underneath my desk. So when I came to check this cake, I was on my knees on the hard tiles, head bashing against my desk, face in the oven. I realised I didn't have a toothpick or cake tester with me (and couldn't face untangling myself from the desk to find one), so I tried pressing the top and looking for the springback.
It sprang back as required, so the cake came out of the oven. It hadn't risen much but it was golden brown. After a few minutes, I messily transferred it to the wire rack, causing it to crack slightly. I cut a slice from the end and went off to sit on the floor amongst the paint pots, balancing my tea on the stepladder.
Then I went back to the kitchen. There was a pool of liquid cake under the rack, swirled with drops of melted chocolate. The middle hadn't cooked. I swore.
So. I, er, recommend checking that you get a clean tester from the middle before removing it from the oven.
When I was working from the original recipe last week everything seemed a bit confusing and jumbled up. Instead of replacing the recipe in the orignal post (which I'd like to keep for nostalgic reasons but would rather you didn't actually bake from) I thought I'd test and write a new one. I tried it again yesterday (the loaf you see in the pictures) and made a few small changes. I've enjoyed updating my hot cross bun recipe each year (v.3 is here) so it seemed like a good plan.
To be honest, it's also because I'm achey and exhausted from all the decorating and proposal-writing and my kitchen is full of shelves and desks and chairs and my cookbooks are randomly piled under dust sheets and who knows where my notebooks are and I simply couldn't face making something new.
Hopefully it'll all be done soon (final draft of the proposal is in, so close now) and I'll have more time to bake and catch up with all the internet things that backlog so quickly (emails, comments, my google reader, etc etc). I might even have a little holiday.
(And yes, that is a Bayeux tapestry mug. I love it.)
Pear and Chocolate Loaf 2.0
1 small ripe pear
60g dark chocolate (around 70%)
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
75g caster sugar
50g light brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
135g plain flour
1 & 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of fine sea salt
1 tbsp plain yogurt
Preheat the oven to 190C/375F. Line a 8-9" loaf tin with baking parchment (or one of those liners) - fold the corners in so it fits. Peel the pear over a bowl, catching any juices. Chop into small cubes - you should have roughly 100-125g of chopped pear. Chop the chocolate up into rough chunks. Weigh the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl.
Place the butter and both sugars into the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a mixing bowl and electric hand whisk) and cream them together until fluffy and pale. Scrape down the sides then add 1/4 of the beaten eggs and beat well until smooth. Add the next 1/4 and beat well. With the final two 1/4 additions, add a teaspoon of flour from the bowl too (this helps stop it curdling). Take the bowl off the mixer and scrape down.
Toss the pears and chocolate in the flour mixture (this helps them stay up in the mixture rather than sink as it bakes). Add to the mixer bowl and fold together until you have a stiff but uniform mixture. Add the yogurt and any leftover pear juices and fold again until combined. Spoon into the lined loaf tin and smooth over.
Add a sheet of baking parchment or foil over the top (to stop it overbrowning) then place into the oven. Bake for 30 minutes then remove the paper. Bake for a further 7 to 10 minutes until a cake tester can be removed cleanly from the centre. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes then remove to a wire rack to cool - but do try a warm slice while the chocolate is gooey. The cake keeps in a tin for 2 days.
(Makes 1 loaf - about 10 slices)