Monthly Archives: April 2013

Bring in some pears, I’ll bring back a cake

Ten days ago it was suddenly so cold that I got my winter sheepskin slippers out and was considering changing over to my thicker duvet.  Today it’s so warm that I’m back to rocking shorts and jandals… but with my Barbour thrown on because of the rain-in-every-possible-direction that we’re currently being treated to.  This topsy-turvy weather is difficult to deal with.  We’ve had some rather full-on stormy weather the last few days – rainy, blustery gales that make me feel like I’m in Scotland in November… if I ignore that it’s 22°C at the moment, April and we have palm trees in our garden.

It's a wee bit wavy out in Matheson's Bay…

I do love watching the sea when it’s all ferocious like that.  Aside from dramatic sea views, there are a couple of good things about this weather.  Firstly, the rain has filled up our water tank (yay, showers and clean hair all round!*) and secondly, somebody brought in a glut of pears to the lab yesterday that had all been blown off their tree in the wind.  I’ve had an upside-down pear cake recipe bookmarked for ages, just waiting for pear season to start, so as soon as I saw the small mountain of pears, I knew some of them would be reappearing in the lab today in the form of cake.  Well, assuming the recipe worked of course…

And this is what I'll turn a small mountain of pears into…

I had a moment of panic when, having popped the cake in the oven, I decided to have a little munch on a sliver of leftover pear and discovered that it was sour as (let’s not dwell on why I didn’t think to try the pears before I baked with them).  Oh no, I thought, what have I done?  I can’t possibly bring a horridly sour cake into the lab.  I needn’t have worried though; the caramel completely mellowed out the pears.  In fact, I’d go as far as saying that firm, slightly sour pears are the best to use in this cake, as they’ll hold their shape when cooking and retain their pear flavour but the sourness will get baked out.  The cake went down an absolute storm at the lab – I even overheard claims from several people that it was the best cake they’d ever tasted.  I’m not sure that I quite believe that, but I’ll still take that as very high praise.  Unfortunately, the cake went so quickly that I didn’t really manage to get any decent photos of it.  A victim of its own success, clearly.  No doubt I’ll be making it again soon, so I’ll update the photos then.

This would have been a good time to test the pears.

Upside-down pear & ginger cake

Serves 8-10
Adapted from A Treasury of New Zealand Baking

Firm, slightly sour pears would be the best to use for this recipe – the baking will mellow their sourness but they’ll still keep their shape and won’t disintegrate into mush.  The actual number of pears required obviously will depend on their size and the size of the cake tin.  Whilst utterly delicious as a snack (or breakfast…), this cake would also make a wonderful dessert, served with whipped cream or a caramel sauce.  The cake is best eaten the next day so that the caramel can really soak in, and will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container.

Ingredients

For the cake:
225g unsalted butter, softened
300g light brown sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
250g all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
3 tsp ground ginger
Pinch of salt
3 or 4 firm pears

For the caramel:
100g unsalted butter
130g light brown sugar

Directions

To prepare the cake:
1.  Line the base of a 24 or 26cm round deep cake tin with baking paper.  Pre-heat the oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C.

2.  In a large bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar with an electric whisk until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time.

3.  Sift the flour, baking powder, ginger and salt into the egg mixture and stir together with a spatula or large spoon until just combined.

4.  Peel, core and cut the pears into eighths.  Set aside.

To prepare the caramel:
5.  In a small saucepan, melt the butter and sugar together to make the caramel.  Once the sugar has completely melted and the mixture is smooth, pour into the prepared cake tin.  Arrange the pears over the top of the caramel, then cover with the cake batter, smoothing the top (it doesn’t have to be perfect).

6.  Place the cake tin on a baking tray large enough to catch any caramel that might bubble over the sides (way easier than cleaning a caramel-encrusted oven…) and bake for 50-55mins until a skewer comes out clean.  Cool in the cake tin for about 5 mins before turning out onto a serving plate to cool completely.  The cake is best eaten the next day.

Enjoy!

My housemates got to the cake for breakfast before I did…

*Just to clarify, we have actually been showering over the past three months.  Just quickly and not necessarily at home.  And there may have been some scrimping on the hair-washing.  Isn’t that a lovely note to end on?

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Filed under Recipes, Student Life, Sweet Foods

Sunday Smiles: It’s back!

Sunday SmilesSunday Smiles has somewhat fallen off the radar.  And by that I mean it has plummeted into the abyss of disorganisation and stayed there for the past two months.  Woops.  The original premise of Sunday Smiles was to give me a way to focus on the positives of the week – things that made me smile or laugh or that were simply just pretty – and aside from being disorganised, I guess I haven’t needed that so much over the last few months because I’m enjoying life in Leigh so much.  But I think it’s time to bring Sunday Smiles back,* which obviously has nothing to do with the afforded opportunity to procrastinate from writing my thesis and everything to do with all the sunrise, sunset and sea view photos that I keep posting to Instagram…

So, time to kick off another edition of Sunday Smiles:

  • You know those sunrise photos that I mentioned?  Well.  I’ve yet to get bored of the sunrises here and I’ve yet to cure my Instagram addiction…  So here’s Wednesday’s sunrise – I just can’t get over the colours:

How ridiculous are those colours?

  • One of my housemates and I have been going for walks around the Leigh area most evenings, resulting in some superb views (generally of the sea…) around sunset.  It’s difficult not to feel happy and calm here (I’ve been informed that I’ll revise my opinion in winter – we’ll see).

Super calm (it's not always like that…)

  • Ok, enough of how lucky I am at the moment, let’s move on to the cutest frog ever.  Seriously.  Since the desert rain frog (Breviceps macrops) sounds rather like a squeaky dog toy, it may also be the most ridiculous frog ever.
  • Speaking of cute, how utterly adorable is this little harbour seal pup (Phoca vitulina) on a mission?  That is one determined seal pup.  I totally want to try this next time I have a spare surfboard and GoPro camera lying around (so probably never).
  • A couple of my housemates and I went up to Waipu for St Patrick’s and on our way back we discovered a Dutch delicatessen in more or less the middle of nowhere (Kaiwaka to be precise).  The deli (which also sells delicious cheese by the way) sold Chocomel and my favourite hagelslag ever: chocolade vlokken.  I couldn’t contain my excitement and just had to buy some, resulting in quite possibly the best breakfast I’ve ever had, largely because, on the complete opposite side of the world from The Netherlands, it was so utterly unexpected.  Lekker!!  (PS – Chocolate sprinkles on toast is a legit breakfast.  Stop judging me.)

Mmmmmm lekker!!!

  • On a more cultured note, you may have read that Rembrandt’s The Night Watch has returned to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.  But have you seen the flashmob recreation of the painting to celebrate the fact that it’s a bit of a big deal?  Isn’t that an amazing idea?
  • And finally, we wouldn’t want things to get too high-brow around here, so we’ll finish off with this excellent take on a motivational poster, which came to me courtesy of Craig (source):

218 - Inspiration

So on that inspirational note, what made you smile this week?

*Even though this is actually going up on Monday, thanks to our Internet completely conking out last night…  Living in rural NZ does have the occasional downside.

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