Pear, Hazelnut and Rosewater Cake

Pear and hazelnut cakeI love that I don’t have a microwave. When I did own one I barely used it. The occasional reheating and warming milk, that was it. I certainly never used it to cook food in. It just didn’t feel right.  So when I moved into a tiny one bedroom flat with the tiny one person kitchen I decided I didn’t want to take up valuable space with a piece of gadgetry I hardly ever used. I also wanted to keep thing simple and more natural. I don’t have a toaster either, purely to save space. I have to say this has resulted in many a burnt toast as I forget about it under the grill while I’m distracted by something, usually someone’s blog.

People have also looked at me quizzically when I say I really don’t want a thermomix. Don’t get me wrong they certainly have their place, that’s just not in my kitchen. I like that it takes me time to make ice cream, a risotto that needs constant tending, and I like a dough that requires time kneading. I don’t want any machine that takes that pleasure away from me.

In saying all that there are times when you have to be inventive, like softening butter…butter

Still, I wouldn’t change a thing and as Autumn brings cooler evenings I will be welcoming it with my central heater, the kitchen oven.Pear and hazelnut cake

Pear, Hazelnut and Rosewater Cake

100g hazelnuts

100g plain flour

2 tspn baking powder

200g softened unsalted butter

100g caster sugar

100g golden caster sugar

3 eggs

1 tspn vanilla extract

2 not quite ripe pears

Rosewater syrup

2 tbspn caster sugar

4 tblspn water

1 tspn rose water

1 tspn cinnamon

1 tspn dried rose petals

Line a 24cm spring form baking tin. Warm oven to 150°C. Place the hazelnuts in a baking tray and roast for about 15 minutes or until you see the skins cracking. Remove and tip onto a tea towel. Increase oven temperature to 180°C. Gather up the tea towel edges and rub the hazelnuts together so the skins will fall off. Don’t be too fussy about this, some skin left on is fine. Pop them into a food processor and when cooled down a bit whiz them to a fine ground.

Sift flour and baking powder into a bowl and add ground hazelnuts. Cream butter and sugar in large bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating each in well before adding the next. Add vanilla extract with the last egg.  Add flour/hazelnut mix and gently fold through well. Tip into the baking tin and spread out to cover the bottom.

Peel and quarter the pears, slice out the core and then slice the quarter into 3-4 more slices. Lay over the cake in a circle, over lapping is fine.

Bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes. Leave in the tin to cool. To make the syrup, mix the caster sugar and water in a very small saucepan over medium heat, until sugar is dissolved. Then add the rosewater and remove from the heat. Pierce the cake with a skewer to make alot of holes over the cake. Spoon over about 3/4 of the syrup. Sprinkle with cinnamon and dried rose petals.

Lamington Fingers……Happy Australia Day!

You may roll your eyes that I have chosen to make lamingtons for Australia Day but I’m feeling quite nostalgic this year.
Lamingtons actually originate from Queensland. The place that has reawakened the Australian in me. When most of the state was beset by a raging flood over Christmas it was clear that Australians are strong. It was a flood with such a magnitude like we have never seen here before, as it continued through Queensland into New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. The sheer numbers of people who came to the aide of complete strangers to clean up, provide shelter and food, in the aftermath was very moving. Tens of thousands of Australian helping fellow Australians in dire need. Now that makes you feel proud.

Their name comes from Lord Lamington who was the Governor of Queensland in the late 1890s. The creation of these tasty little cakes came from his cook who came up with them by some accident in the kitchen one day.

I have vague memories of helping make lamingtons as a young girl, for a fundraising event. It was messy, or maybe it was just that I was young and tended to make a mess when left with chocolate and coconut.
Since then I have never attempted to make them. I have visions of that day, fingers caked in chocolate and coconut, looking like little lamingtons themselves.

Now I’m a grown up I should be much tidier, shouldn’t I?

I turned to Bills Granger, the Australian man of neat and tidiness (even though he says he is a messy cook, I don’t believe it). I know Bill tries to simplify recipes, so I adapted his lamington recipe from Every Day to use for mine.

Lamington Fingers

Sponge Cake:

6 eggs

150g caster sugar

200g self-raising flour

30g unsalted butter, melted

3 tablespoons hot water

Chocolate Icing:

500g icing sugar

200g dark chocolate, broken up

15g unsalted butter

250mls milk

400g desiccated coconut

Method:

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and line a 18x 28 baking tin.

For the cake, beat the eggs for 5 mins with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Gradually add the sugar and continue beating until sugar looks dissolved. Stop the electric beaters. Sift in the flour and fold into mix. Then add butter and hot water and fold into mix. Pour into baking tin and bake for 30 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.

For the chocolate sauce, place the sugar, chocolate, butter and milk into a heat proof dish over a saucepan of just simmering water. Stir the mixture until it is all combined. Keep in mind that you need to dip the sponge into this mix it needs to thin enough to coat easily but thick enough to cling to the sponge. You only need a thin layer of the chocolate mix over the sponge. So if the mix is too thick keep it over the heat and add more milk. Too thin and add more icing sugar.

The sponge didn’t rise as much as I wanted (maybe my tin was too big) so I cut the sponge into 20 fingers instead of the traditional squares. Dip the sponge into the chocolate mixture to coat, it helps to use 2 forks to roll the sponge. Hold the sponge up with the forks to let the excess coating drip off and roll in coconut. Carefully place on a wire rack for the chocolate mix to set.

And yes it is still a messy job but so so very worth it.