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Italian Experiment: Chocolate and Pear Cake

July 4, 2009

On a recent trip to Bergamo – a hilltop town north of Milan – I discovered a truly delicious cake. Lurking in the chiller of an excellent deli (which was, as luck would have it, only metres away from the flat we were staying in) was a wonderful looking chocolate and pear cake. It was nutty, not overly chocolatey and the pears were really tasty.

In the interests of forensic examination – necessary in order to work out the recipe – I managed to have a couple of pieces during a 3-day stay.

pear choc cake

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Back home in the Food Digest kitchen I had a go at making it. I’d got the main ingredients (but no quantities obviously) from the deli counter but wasn’t sure if the pears had been cooked before being put into the cake mix. I based my interpretion on another recipe I’d developed for a chocolate almond cake. Version 1 was too chocolatey (I added dark chocolate as well as cocoa) and the pears were not cooked enough (I put them in raw).Version 2, made a few nights ago got much closer to the real thing and I might settle at this version for now.

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Chocolate and Pear cake

Ingredients

170g (6oz) Softened butter (no problem in this heat)

170g (6oz) Caster Sugar

Dash of vanilla extract (or a good quality vanilla essence)

90g (3oz)  Plain flour (Italian ‘OO’ flour would be very good in this)

90g (3oz) Ground almonds (it’s a faff but grinding your own tastes much better)

3 eggs (room temperature is best for any cakes)

60g (2oz) Cocoa (use Green & Black’s – it needs to be a good quality one to taste good)

3 Pears (not ripe ones – use relatively hard ones  – conference are good for this)

Heaped tablespoon of toasted almonds (you can buy them ready-toasted)

Cake tin: 22cm (9″) round springform tin (the ones with the clip at the side for easy dispensing)

Method

1. Poach pears in water for 10 minutes or until they look a bit transluscent, drain, cut in half lengthways taking the pips etc out and leave to cool.

2. Beat the butter and sugar, then add the vanilla.

3. Add eggs, one at a time (if any curdling add a little of the flour).

4. Add the ground almonds and sifted flour and cocoa – beat in gently.

5. Line the cake tin with silicone paper.

6. Pour the mix into the tin and scatter a ring of the crushed toasted almonds around the outside edge (I push them in a bit).

7. Arrange the pears ,bottoms out, on top of the mix and gently push them down a little in to the mix.

8. Into the oven at 175ºC for 35-40 minutes – middle shelf (check it’s cooked by inserting a knife into the cake – if it comes out clean it’s cooked).

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