Wasn’t I just saying it was unseasonably cold? Well not today, in fact today is possibly the worst day for making pastry. It’s 28’C and I’m attempting to roll out a chocolate short crust. The marble kitchen bench top is heating up every inch the suns gets higher in the sky and I’m scraping the sticky bits of pastry off it as I roll it back on to the rolling-pin – just keep going and we’ll plug those later.
Why am I making pastry and not at the beach? It’s my gorgeous Grandad’s 88th birthday tomorrow you see. Last year I made him a sponge cake, and this year he’s given me free reign over what cake to make. His only request was nothing with apricots.
Usually I need some kind of direction when making birthday cakes. Give me something, a flavour, a texture, is it to be a cake or a tart? Something to work with, otherwise the options are endless. So I started to think about the flavours that reminded me of Grandad. Chocolate, because it’s rich in character and well-loved – just like him; Pear, for its subtle sweetness, fragrance and soft texture – his nature; Macadamia, for its toasty warmth and hint of savoury – his humor and wit. And a short crust pastry – soft and buttery, like his hugs and a little bit crumbly, because you get a bit like that at 88, right Grandad? It this also happened to be the latest recipe to land in my in box this week – a Chocolate, pear and macadamia tart.
I’ve cooked it a little longer than the recipe advises, just to make sure the centre is firm because the batter around the pears will remain nice and runny. If you’re a reader of this blog, you’ll know that cakes, cars and I have a history of not travelling well together – so I’m not taking any chances and keeping this one in the tart tin as extra security for its trip up the coast.
Grandad’s not really a fan of sweets, so I wonder if this cake is more to humour me than for his pleasure. But when I see he’s almost cleared his plate before the rest of us have even started on ours, I know I’ve done well. And when he takes a piece home for later, I know it wasn’t just for me.
Chocolate, pear and macadamia tart
(Adapted from the Popina Book of Baking by Isidora Popovic)
Serves 8-12; Prep time: 30 minutes; Cook time 20-25 minutes
225g plain flour
25g cocoa powder
125g unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
85g golden caster sugar
– Place the flour, cocoa powder, butter and sugar in a bowl and mix with an electric mixer until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add the egg and whisk again. Bring together in a ball then roll out on a slightly floured surface until about 3-4mm thick. Roll onto a rolling-pin and unroll onto a 23cm tart tin, squeeze the edges in and trim any excess dough neatly around the edges. Place in the fridge.
45g unsalted butter, softened
90g golden caster sugar
1½ tsp baking powder
90g plain flour
– In a separate bowl, whisk the butter and sugar until combined. Add the egg and baking powder. Mix until combined, then add the flour and gently fold under.
90g dark chocolate, chopped
90g milk chocolate, chopped
180ml single cream
1 sponge dough, from recipe above
– Place the chocolate in a clean bowl. Place the cream in a non-stick saucepan and bring to a boil over a medium heat, stirring constantly. Pour the cream over the chocolate and whisk until the chocolate has melted. Gently fold in the sponge dough and mix well.
For the tart:
3 pears, peeled, halved, cored, and thinly sliced to make a fan shape
50g macadamia nuts
Apricot jam, heated in a pan until runny, for brushing
– Preheat the oven to 170˚C. Remove the chocolate shortcrust from the fridge and pour in the chocolate cream. Top with the pears and sprinkle with the macadamia nuts. Place in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes for a gooey soft centre (bake for 5-10 minutes longer for a firm centre). Brush the pears with apricot jam.