This delicious pear-and-chocolate loaf is the perfect autumnal treat.
Sweet pears are weighing the branches down in my orchard and I am, once again, asking myself how I will use up a glut of homegrown produce. The delicious pear-and-chocolate loaf only uses three pears, which leaves a remainder of about 73, so I will be filling my larder with ginger-and-pear chutney.
Pear, chocolate and chocolate-ganache loaf with pecan-and-rosemary brittle (serves 4)
160g muscovado sugar
100ml light olive oil
1tspn vanilla-bean paste
160g self-raising flour
50g unsweetened cocoa powder
3 pears, halved with the core scooped out, but skin left on
1 sprig fresh rosemary, chopped
A pinch of salt flakes
150g caster sugar
150g 70%-cocoa-solid chocolate
200g double cream
2tbspn caster sugar
Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4, grease a loaf tin and line the base with parchment paper. Combine the sugar, olive oil, egg and vanilla-bean paste in a stand mixer until light and aerated. In a separate bowl, mix the flour and cocoa powder together, then add it in batches to the bowl of the stand mixer, alternating with the buttermilk, until both are all incorporated, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Pour half the mixture into the prepared tin and arrange the pears on top, before adding the remaining mixture and baking for about 40 minutes.
To make the brittle, prepare an oven tray with a sheet of baking parchment, then scatter pecans and rosemary all over it and toast them in the oven for five minutes to bring out the flavour. Remove the tray from the oven and scatter them with salt flakes and set aside, keeping the baking parchment in place beneath the pecans. Melt the sugar in a heavy-based saucepan with the splash of water, without stirring it, until you see the sugar turn an even mahogany colour. If you have a sugar thermometer, it should read 150°C/300°F, which is the hard-crack stage. Pour it all over the pecans (be very careful, as boiling sugar really burns) and leave to cool. Once hardened, peel away the baking parchment and break the brittle into shards with your hands or a sharp knife.
To make the ganache, break the chocolate into small pieces in a bowl, then heat the cream and sugar over a low heat and, just before it boils, pour the mixture over the chocolate pieces. Leave it for a minute or two, then stir until the chocolate has fully melted into a deliciously smooth, pourable ganache.
Arrange the loaf on a serving plate, pour the ganache over the top and, before it sets, drop brittle shards over it and serve in slices, accompanied by a dollop of whipped cream.
More ways with pears
Pears ‘on horseback’ (left)
Cut three pears into four wedges each, remove the stalk and stem and wrap each quarter in a bacon rasher, then bake—on a foil- lined baking sheet, to avoid any scrubbing later—in a hot oven for about 30 minutes or until the bacon is browned. Serve immediately as a canapé or add to a salad (while still warm) as a starter.
Peel 6 pears, but leave the stalk intact, then bring a large saucepan containing a bottle of red wine, 300ml water, 150g sugar, 1 cinnamon stick, a few cloves, a teaspoon vanilla-bean paste, orange and lemon zest and a handful each of dried apricots and figs or other dried fruit you may have to a simmer and cook for about 25 minutes, until the pears are soft and the dried fruit plump.
Remove the fruit with a slotted spoon and arrange on a platter. Scatter chopped nuts such as pistachio, cashews and hazelnuts over it. Return the wine syrup to the heat and simmer again until very reduced and syrupy. I like to serve the fruit cold, but with the syrup hot, and drizzle a little single cream over the top of the pears.
Peel and core 2lb of pears (about six) and cut them into chunks. Add them to a large pan, along with 2 sprigs rosemary, 125g dried apricots, 125g prunes, 200g sultanas, 100g crystallised ginger, 2 peeled and chopped red onions, 1 apple, 250g brown sugar and 500ml apple-cider vinegar. Bringing them to a simmer, cook for about an hour, until thickened, stirring to make sure the base doesn’t burn. Remove the rosemary and spoon into sterilised jars, place wax paper on the surface, leave to cool and then seal. Serve with mature cheeses.