Saturday, 8 September 2012

Twinkies and wine? Well it is a dessert wine: Pear and almond cake

I confess, I have absolutely no idea what a twinkie is, it just seems to form part of that knowledge of American children's food, with Lucky charms, and peanut butter and jam/ jelly sandwiches. The awareness of which came from my voracious reading of the Sweet Valley High series when I was about 11, and then later Judy Bloom - transforming my desire to go to an English Boarding School (also based in the world of novels, at that point Enid Blyton) to a desperate wish for an American middle/ high school environment. When compared to my navy blue box pleated skirt, knee length white socks, black Clarks shoes, blue blouse and school blazer it all seemed so exotic. They wore their own clothes, weren't forced to run around The Chase in red PE knickers and a white t-shirt, and no one ever seemed to eat anything as dull and ordinary as my packed lunches, the most exciting part of which was a Harvest cereal bar. 

Anyway, this post has nothing to do with American foodstuffs, so apologies for that somewhat tangental ramble. Last weekend I wanted to bake, a cake that would last all week, and would form a treat in a horrendously busy week. As it was a horrible debilitating migraine on Tuesday evening put an end to most of this week's pans as the residual headache has lasted since then. But I had cake! As my appetite in the wake of a migraine just isn't there having cake on hand meant that I did eat something. 

I'd found a recipe in Good Housekeeping, that I adapted slightly, changing the topping, adding extra pears, and swapping out the sugar for a stevia substitute (I can't remember which brand it is as I decant my sugars and flours into jars, but it was one I picked up in the supermarket)

Pear and almond cake - inspired by Good Housekeeping

The alcohol behind the cake is blackberry gin that's waiting for some preserving bottles to be purchased

8oz unsalted butter
4.5 oz stevia granulated white sugar
3 eggs
4oz self-raising flour
Almond essence (I used the Sainsbury's Taste the Difference extract)
3oz ground almonds
3 pears, peeled and finely sliced - they need to be almost see through

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C
Grease and line a deep round tin (about 8 inches across) As it's quite a damp cake I wouldn't advise just flouring
First off I whizzed the stevia sugar in the food processor in a rough attempt to make it more caster sugar like
Beat the butter and sugar until it goes pale and fluffy, add the eggs, with a spoonful of flour to stop the mixture curdling, add in the almond extract and beat again
Fold in the flour (I sieved mine) and the ground almonds, then stir in the sliced pears making sure they're distributed throughout the mixture
Put the mixture into the tin, flatten the surface using a spatula or the back of a spoon and bake for 20 minutes

The GH recipe suggests topping with almonds, demerara sugar and fanned, sliced pears. I had the almonds and more pears but no demerara sugar. 

I really did try to slice the pears so they'd fan out and look pretty but I just couldn't make it work (purely down to my lack of skill I suspect). Instead I gave up and sliced the pears finely, then sprinkled those over the cake. 

The absence of flaked almonds in the house led me to toast a handful of whole almonds in my big pan, and then added some soft brown sugar, stirring all the while as the sugar began to caramelise and coat the almonds. I then sprinkled (well, flung really. I'm not the tidiest cook) the  mixture over the part baked cake, and sliced pears. This went back into the oven for and hour (the original recipe says 55 minutes, but I think my oven is a bit off and need to get a thermometer to check how off so at the moment I'm guaging baking and cooking purely by eye). 

I left the cake to cool in the tin completely then removed it - as my wire rack seems to have gone walkies in the move, along with my runner bean slicer thing - and popped it on a plate. 

As the week progressed the cake did exactly what I wanted it to, becoming damper and damper - meaning that for me it just got better and better. I love damp cakes (aside from the fact that you need to eat them with a fork) the almonds and pears in this just made it just slightly grainy which I loved. The pears within the cake had cooked down so just occaisionally you got a sliver but the flavour permeated the almond just giving it a gentle hint of pear. 

You could easily serve this as a pudding, but I just adored it as a home from work treat, cwtched down on the sofa with a cuppa and the previous night's Last leg with Adam Hill.  

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