Imperfect yet beautiful …. Pear and chocolate sponge

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I had a photo shoot with Reuben yesterday afternoon and I am sharing a recipe with you for a chocolate and pear sponge I made in the morning as a ‘maybe’ for the shoot, but in the end we did not use it.

I love fruit in my desserts and these chocolatey pears are so perfectly delicious and full of flavor. Fruit is rarely perfect to look at and I like to leave it as close as possible to its natural state, as it is meant to be… from the tree into the oven without altering its pesticide-free beauty.

I feel these days that food is sometimes aesthetically over-processed and not enough focus is made on flavor. Although I appreciate the skills and talent in artistic plating, I find over-manipulation of food visually sterile and i sometimes loose the passion for eating and sharing it. I think of Adam and Eve and the apple and I want to be so tempted that I will be unable to resist. I prefer a balance of naturally beautiful food that will stimulate my taste buds to the point where they will explode from pleasure. I love imperfect… It’s got more character !

For the chocolate and pear sponge you will need :

6 small pears
1 tablespoon honey
1 lemon, juice and zest
1 orange, juice and zest

*Cooking Hint * I poach the pears the day before and leave them in a colander on a plate in the fridge to drain out all the liquid and prevent the cake mix from getting soggy. A much better result *

Peel the pears and immerse them in a large container filled with water. Add the juice and zest of half the lemon and orange. I use a tablespoon of my preserved citrus zest mixed with the water instead. Let them soak for an hour. This will give them a lovely color when they caramelize in the oven.

Pour half of the water that the pears have been soaking into a saucepan. Bring to boil. Add the honey and the other half of the zest and juice. If you are using preserved citrus peel add another tablespoon. Add the pears and lower the heat keeping the liquid at a boil. After a few minutes, not more than 6, depending on the size of the pears, remove from heat and drain the liquid. I reuse this liquid to make jams or chutneys. The pear should be soft but still firm. Leave to drain overnight in the fridge.

Chocolate Sponge

120g self raising flour
3 spoons cocoa powder
3 spoons dark grated chocolate, I use Indonesian Black
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
120g butter
120g butter
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee

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I use two rectangular tart rings for this sponge. They are brilliant, adjustable and you just need to place them on baking parchment and pour in your cake batter.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder into a mixing bowl.
Add all the other ingredients.
Use an electric hand whisk to combine the ingredients. Do not overdo it !
Divide the mixture between the two rings
Take the pears out of the fridge. Leaving the whole with the stalks, make thin neat slits along the length and open up like a fan.
Place gently and neatly on the cake.
Bake at 170C for 20 minutes.
Take out and leave to cool.
Dust finely with icing sugar.
*Optional* A dusting of finely grated dark chocolate just before serving ….

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Having great fun chatting with Reuben’s lovely wife Lorita during our preparation yesterday while 1 year old Nathan wonders what its all about!

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