I know it seems like I only update this blog with baked goods lately, but I suppose I've just been in a baking mood. The weather has begun to cool off, the trees have started to change their colours, and the prospect of having the oven on and the smell of something delicious wafting through the house is an enticing one. Plus, it was my mother-in-law's birthday last Friday, and I wasn't going to let the occasion pass without making some kind of birthday cake. After trawling through numerous recipe sites, I happened across this recipe for 'Torta di Pere'. The combination of pears, dark chocolate and browned butter was immediately appealing to me, and despite not being the most attractive looking cake (it was a little sunken in the middle), the texture and flavours were absolutely scrumptious. The bitterness of the chocolate offsets the sweetness of the pears perfectly. And as someone who can't resist tasting the cake mix left on the sides of the bowl/beaters, the browned butter makes this some of the best tasting batter ever! Everyone here loved it the cake, and I would definitely make it again. I wouldn't attempt this if you don't have a hand or stand mixer though, there's a lot of beating involved!
Bittersweet Chocolate and Pear Cake
recipe from Al Di La Restaurant via Smitten Kitchen
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, at room-temperature
4 ounces (113g or 1/2 cup) unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 pears, peeled, in a small dice (I used bartlett, but use whichever variety you prefer)
3/4 cup bittersweet or dark chocolate chips (at least 35% cocoa solids)
Icing (Confectioner's) sugar, for dusting
Preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter a 9-inch (23cm) springform pan and dust with flour, set aside.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together, set aside.
Using a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the eggs on high speed until pale and very thick. (About 9 or 10 minutes, think 'ribbons' not 'peaks' as full eggs won't beat up the same way egg whites do.)
Meanwhile, brown the butter. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and cook until the butter browns and smells nutty (about 6 to 8 minutes). Scrape the solids off the bottom of the pan every few minutes to ensure even browning. Remove from the flame but keep in a warm spot.
Add the sugar to the eggs and whip a few minutes more.
Just as the egg-sugar mixture is starting to lose volume, turn the mixer off. Using a spatula, gently fold through one third of the flour mixture, then half of the butter, a third of the flour, the remaining butter, and the rest of the flour. Fold until just combined — do not over-mix the batter or it will lose volume.
Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle the pear and chocolate chunks over the top, and bake until the cake is golden brown and springs back to the touch, about 40 to 50 minutes, or a tester comes out clean.
I served the cake at room tempterature with a little icing sugar dusted over. You could also add some whipped cream, or serve warm with vanilla ice-cream. This should keep for 2-3 days in an air tight container... if it lasts that long!