This year's pear harvest was the best yet, with wonderfully juicy fruit coming from a succession of different trees over several months. (We also had a splendid apple crop, whilst peaches were definitely fewer than normal, plums ditto, and apricots and almonds non-existent - presumably all a reflection of the stage the various trees were at when the Beast from the East hit, in late Spring. Hazelnuts were pretty good, come to think of it, but nectarines made almost no appearance, likewise walnuts, and the quince harvest was definitely light; Cachi are ripening only just about now, and although Paola did manage to present me with one a week ago which was sweet and inoffensive, I have still to be convinced about them as an idea.)
Poached pears, Tartine Perigourdine, Tarte Bordaloue, Pear Sorbet, Pear Souffle, Pear Strudel...and this recipe. I found it on an american blog, and I came back to it time and again in the course of the summer - to the point that I realised that I really ought to write it down, before it mysteriously disappears, as things on the internet have a habit of doing. The writer called it 'Italian', which I rather doubt - in my experience, Italian baking tends to be noticeably 'solid', whilst this cake is light and airy and generally delicious. I have replicated the original in using volumetric measures for all ingredients except the almonds, where inexplicably the measure is given as a weight - I could have gone to the trouble to translate this also into a volumetric measure...but, then, so I suppose could you. I've also added in a dash of almond essence, as I generally do when a recipe calls for ground almonds, since they rarely have any decent flavour these days. The marscapone cream is an entirely optional serving suggestion, but it is delicious (and works very well, too, with apple pie...)
Ingredients: 9 tbs butter; 9 tbs sugar; 3 medium eggs; 7 tbs plain flour; 3.5 oz ground almonds; 1 tsp almond essence; 0.5 tsp baking powder; 2 medium pears, peeled, cored and quartered; a light handful of slivered almonds. (for the marscapone cream: 100g Mascarpone; grated zest of one orange plus tbs orange juice; 2 tbs marsala; sugar, to taste)
1. Pre-heat the oven to 175 degrees C.
2. In a food processor, cream together the butter and sugar, and then add the eggs, followed by the flour, almonds and essence and baking powder. Process briefly.
3. Transfer the mixture to a prepared 20 cm cake tin (buttered, and with a disc of greaseproof paper in the base). Place the pear quarters evenly around the top of the cake, and sprinkle with the slivered almonds.
4. Bake for around 30 minutes, until done. Leave to cool in the tin, and dust the top with icing sugar to serve.
5. For the mascarpone cream, whisk together all of the ingredients until thoroughly amalgamated.