Anneka Manning, a food author, mum of two and passionate baker behind BakeClub, joins us each month to share some of her industry tips, tricks and 25 years worth of experience. Today, she shows us how to make the most of seasonal produce by baking with pears. Plus, she shares a beautiful Cinnamon Pear Crumble Cake recipe that you’ll find hard to stop at just one slice with!
I love the range of seasonal fruit available at this time of year. Autumn heralds the arrival of blushed plums, knobbly quinces, crisp apples, exotic persimmons, romantic figs and, of course, the humble pear.
You may have noticed that pears are available in store most of the year but Autumn is when they are newly picked and at their peak – so make the most of them now!
In Australia there are about eight common pear varieties. From the ever-versatile Williams Bon Chretien to the flushed Red Sensation and the fabulously flavoured Josephine de Malines, these pear varieties all have their own special characteristics which determines their suitability for various uses.
I have three favourites when it comes to baking. Whether is be a tart, pie, cake, crumble or simple baking them whole or halved, the following varieties are the best suited to use in your baking:
Packham Triumph – These pears, generally known as Packham, have a deliciously rich flavour and a firm flesh when ripe making them ideal for using in baking. Their green skin will become less intense in colour when ripe. They are also a great eating pear.
Beurre Bosc ¬ Easy to identify with their russet brown skin with a green undertone and their slightly elongated shape, these pears have a sweet flesh and are a great all-rounder when it comes to cooking, especially baking.
Williams Bon Chretien – Known more commonly as Williams they are perfect for baking but also poaching, snacking on and using in salads. Their green skin turns a dusty yellow when ripe. When using them in baking make sure they haven’t ripened too much as they will become mushy – they should be ripe but still a little firm.
And just a little word about how to store pears…they are best kept at room temperature away from direct light until ripened. Once ripe, put them in a plastic bag and keep them in the crisper section of your fridge for up to 3 days.
Cinnamon Pear Crumble Cake Recipe
Enriched with sour cream and studded with chunks of pear this cake is topped with a delicious nutty, cinnamon-spiced crumble. It is perfect to serve at room temperature for afternoon tea or warm with cream or ice-cream for dessert. Make sure you use ripe pears that are still a little firm for the best results (avoid those ones that are really soft).
Preparation time: 20 minutes (+ cooling time)
Baking time: 1 hour 20 minutes
What You’ll Need for the Cake:
Melted butter, to grease
100g butter, at room temperature
165g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract or essence
2 eggs, at room temperature
200g sour cream
200g (11/3 cups) plain flour
11/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 (about 220 g each) firm ripe pears (such as Williams, Packham or Beurre Bosc), peeled, cored, cut into 2cm chunks
Cream or vanilla ice cream, to serve (optional)
What You’ll Need for the Crumble Topping:
110g (1/2 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar
50g (1/3 cup) plain flour
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
60g chilled butter, cubed
100g walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped
What You Do:
1. Preheat oven to 170°C. Grease a 22cm (base measurement) springform pan with melted butter and line the base with non-stick baking paper.
2. To make the crumble topping, put the sugar, flour and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Use your fingertips to rub in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in the walnuts or pecans.
3. To make the cake, use an electric mixer to beat the butter, caster sugar and vanilla in a large bowl until pale and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the sour cream and beat until just combined. Sift together the flour and baking powder. Add to the butter mixture and beat on low speed until just combined. Use a spatula or large metal spoon to fold in the pear until evenly combined.
4. Spoon the cake mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the surface with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle the Crumble Topping over the top to cover.
5. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Stand the cake in the tin for 5 minutes before transferring, still on the base of the tin, to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature on its own or accompanied by cream or ice-cream.
- You can also make the crumble topping using a food processor. Put the sugar, flour, cinnamon and butter in a food processor and process until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the nuts.
- This cake will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
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