Thursday, 13 January 2011

Spiced pears chocolate cake

I'm so excited ! This Friday, I'll be going with my mother-in-law to the Canard du Lac Brome (Lake Brome's duck) to buy whole ducks directly from the producer. What are we going to do with all those ducks ? They're going to be slowly and patiently transformed into canard confit ! I'm SO excited !

Duck confit eaten at Guyuk's birthday 

We're also to prepare the festivities for "Christmas". Yeah, you read that right. Since usually nobody's available during the holidays, we just make things simple and post-pone the gathering in January, so everyone can attend. When we started this, we were living in a 4 1/2 in Montreal, then, we've been hosting it the two following years at our house where we live now. This year, for different reasons, it's going to be hosted at my mother-in-law's place.

Along with the duck to confit, we'll be preparing the food for our gathering. I tought this was a great opportunity to try out some of the recipes in one of the book I ordered from Amazon last year, Mastering The Art of Chinese Cooking. I settled on a kind of "dim sum" spread, with spring rolls, sui mai and potstickers of different flavors. There's gonna be pork and shrimp involved ! I'll try to take as much pictures and notes as I can, but hey, a chef works fast, and she sets the pace when we're together.

But today, I'd like to share a cake with you.

It's a classic, simple chocolate cake, with the addition of pears embedded in it. You of course, start by poaching the pears. The recipe called only for cinnamon sticks, but I decided that the pears could use something a little more potent, and dropped some star anise as well in the pot.

Pear halves poaching away

The cake mix itself is not very complicated. It's almost a one-bowl-cake mix. It does ask for chocolate to be melted. I do bain-marie, but you might prefer the microwave. If so, beware of burning the chocolate ! The original cake was intending you to find out about the pears as a surprise, but I tought it would make a really cute pattern if I didn't cover them; so I decided to press them only a little in the batter.

The cake before the bake

The cake baked well for the amount of time mentioned. It came out moist and with a great crumb. The tops of the pears weren't burned, or even dry. Even though it's chocolate, the pears keep the balance for that lighter side. We had an ice cider along with this cake, the first time, which was quite appropriate.

The finished cake

Spiced pears chocolate cake
from Confessions of a tart

4 oz unsalted butter, softened (or unsalted non-dairy substitute)
1/2 cup sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
4 oz dark chocolate, chopped (melted and cooled slightly)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup almond meal (finely ground almonds), or hazelnut meal, or combination of both
4 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder, or Dutch process cocoa powder
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
4 pears, poached

How to
Poach the pears
Peel, cut in half and core the pears. Combine 2-3 cups of water and 1/2 cup of sugar in a sauce pan on medium-high heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Add the pears (add more water if it doesn't cover the pears), bring to a low boil and cook for 20-25 min or until fork tender. Drain and set aside

Make the cake
Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter 9 or 10 inch springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie and set aside. Some like to use the microwave. I do not, as the risk of burning your chocolate increases dramatically when done this way.

Sift together the flour, almond meal, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Beat butter and sugar on a medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the melted chocolate, beat on a low speed until combined. Still on low speed, add the sifted flour mixture and beat for about 1 minute, or until just combined.

Pour the batter into prepared cake pan. Arrange the sliced pears in a circle. Bake the cake for 30 to 40 minutes. Do not over bake. When a tester is inserted into the center of the cake, it should come out with a few moist crumbs attached. If you have access to it, I highly recommend trying an ice cider with the cake, or a light sweet cider (as in the alcoholic drink, not as in "apple juice").

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