Tuesday 11 September 2018

Pear tart

By and large I cannot be bothered with pastry. It's all to do with the rolling out really. The flour that goes everywhere. The dough that does not spread in a perfect circle, or any sort of circle at all. So I was excited to come across this recipe for a tart in which the pastry is just pressed with your fingers into the tin, baked for a bit, then packed with pear slices and a filling of butter, sugar and eggs that transforms in the oven into a silky, sweet custard. In many ways it's like the winter equivalent of Nora Ephron's peach pie - easy to make, even easier to eat. I took a couple of slices on a walk last weekend with my cousin, where they were enjoyed with a view of the harbour... as well as by the kookaburra who swooped and snaffled the last bite.

Tuesday 4 September 2018

Blood orange and walnut cakes

I was unbelievably excited to come across a bounty of blood oranges in the imperfect pick section (there is a special place in my heart for wonky produce) of my fruit and veg store last week. But the thrill of the find fast faded when I remembered that previous excursions into baking with blood oranges had ended in disappointment as their stunning colour is never replicated in the end product. At best you end up with something that just looks like you'd used regular oranges, at worst, baked goods the unappetising shade of a Band-Aid. So I scoured the internet searching for a recipe that promised to preserve that glorious kaleidoscope of red, pink and orange. 

I'd had some success before, with this upside-down cake. Clearly the key is keeping slices intact, so as to showcase the spectacular colour of the fruit in all its glory. This recipe for blood orange and walnut cakes, from Anneka Manning, uses a similar technique but goes a simple step further by first poaching the orange slices in a sugar syrup, which seems to even intensify the colour. The bright slices fit neatly into the bottoms of a muffin tin, the batter - ground walnuts, olive oil, sugar and the zest and flesh of a blood orange bound with a bit of flour - is dolloped on top and twenty minutes later, you have a dairy-free dessert (that can be augmented with ice-cream), an easily transportable treat and something to marvel at: sublime imperfection.

Blood orange and walnut cakes
Adapted from a recipe by Anneka Manning, via SBS Food 

Once the oranges are out of the sugar syrup, you could return the saucepan to the heat and boil the syrup five minutes longer til it's thickened then brush this on the cakes once they come out of the oven. I would have done this but I took my eye off the ball and burned my syrup so decided to do without - to no ill effect so if you can't be bothered, know that these are brilliant just as below.

75 g walnuts, toasted
1 blood orange
220 g (1 cup) sugar
100 ml olive oil, plus extra to grease
2 eggs, at room temperature
150 g (1 cup) self-raising flour (or 1 cup plain flour and 2 tsp baking powder)
cream or ice-cream, to serve, optional

Blood orange topping
220 g (1 cup) sugar
185 ml (¾ cup) water
2 small thin-skinned blood oranges (about 160 g each), thinly sliced (you need at least 12 slices)

Preheat oven to 190°C (170°C fan-forced). Grease a 12-hole 80ml (⅓ cup) muffin tin with extra olive oil.

To make the blood orange topping, combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Add the orange slices and bring to a simmer. Simmer over medium-low heat, without stirring, for 10-15 minutes or until the rind become translucent but the flesh is still intact. Carefully remove the orange slices and place a slice in the bottom of each of the greased muffin holes to line the base.

To make the cake, blitz the walnuts in the bowl of a food processor until finely ground. Zest the blood orange, then use a small sharp knife to remove the white pith. Roughly chop the flesh and discard any seeds. Place the orange rind and flesh, sugar, olive oil and eggs in the food processor with the ground walnuts and process until well combined. Transfer to a bowl and fold in the flour.

Divide the batter evenly among the muffin pans over the orange slices. Bake in for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of a cake comes out clean. 

Remove from the oven and set aside for 5 minutes before turning onto a wire rack.