“Flour on the floor makes my sandals
slip and I tumble into your arms.
Too hot to bake this morning but
blueberries begged me to fold them
into moist muffins. Sticks of rhubarb
plotted a whole pie…”
– from ‘Baked Goods’ by Aimee Nezhukumatahil
There is something of the magic in baking.
Whenever we make a cake together, my three-year-old daughter sits up on the bench and helps out with the pouring and the mixing. She’s learned how to crack eggs against the side of the bowl without getting the shell in the batter, and is an expert at making mountains in the flour.
Whenever we add the wet to the dry ingredients and mix them through she asks where did the eggs go? where is the flour? and the sugar? I explain to her that they’re all still in there, that they’re just all mixed in. But the truth is that I understand her astonishment, her wonder. The way that the simple parts become the amazing whole.
There is something of the magic in it, alright. Science too. But mostly magic.
Lately, I’ve been all about baking with fruit. I love the natural sweetness and textures and colours that fruits give baked goods. And as in the poem above, I love the way that particular fruits marry with different baking forms so perfectly. Apple caramelised into crumble, plum jammy in cake, berries bursting in, well, everything.
And pear? A classic fruit for a classic dessert – the humble cake.
This particular cake is a decidedly winters edition. The buckwheat flour undercuts the sweetness with a nutty overtone, and the rosemary adds an unexpected herb-y twist. Hazelnut and chocolate, because they both make everything better! Best enjoyed for morning or afternoon tea, with a strong hot cup-of-something, and a moment of solitude.
Pear Buckwheat Cake with Rosemary, Dark Chocolate & Hazelnuts
The buckwheat flour gives this cake a delightfully nutty base, but you can otherwise play around with the flavour profile – replace the rosemary with a teaspoon of cardamom for instance, or perhaps slivered almonds instead of hazelnuts.
3/4 cup plain flour
3/4 cup buckwheat flour
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsps fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
100 grams dark chocolate (at least 80%)
1/2 cup hazelnuts, roasted
1 bosc pear
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1 tbsp raw sugar
Preheat oven to 180°c/350°f. Butter and flour a 19cm round springform pan. Set aside.
In a small bowl combine both types of flour, the baking powder, and the salt.
In a larger bowl whisk the eggs and the brown sugar together until fluffy. Add the buttermilk and the coconut oil and mix through until fully combined.
Peel and core the pear and slice into eight thin wedges.
Chop the chocolate into bite-sized pieces – some smaller and some bigger bits are totally fine.
Roughly chop the roasted hazelnuts with a knife, or in a mortar & pestle.
Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and mix until just combined (taking care not to overmix – a few lumps are okay). Add the rosemary, chocolate and hazelnuts, and fold through the batter.
Pour the batter into the prepared baking tin (it should be fairly thick) and smooth the top. Evenly space the pear slices over the top, gently pushing into the batter so that only the tops are showing. Sprinkle the raw sugar over the whole lot.
Bake in the preheated oven for 40 mins, or until the top is starting to golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Leave to cool in the pan for 10 – 20 minutes, before turning out to cool completely on a rack.
Enjoy sliced thickly, with a cup of tea, or a dollop of thick cream.