Hande Leimer is the founder and owner of Vino Roma, a wine studio – with an absurdly historic cellar – located in the centre of Rome. Not only is she an expert sommelier and polyglot wine educator, she’s an excellent cook too. And baker. When she posted a pic of her pear, chocolate and hazelnut cake on her Instagram a few weeks ago, I had to try it.
These three ingredients make for a classic combination. I’ve always loved pear and chocolate, and indeed pear with chocolate sauce was a pudding I grew up with. But I also love anything made with ground nuts, so this really was a cake for me. Furthermore, Hande developed the recipe with the aim of balancing them, so no flavour dominated the other but each was clear and evident. The individual flavours are sharpened and delineated further with the judicious inclusion of some hot spice.
She included piment d’espelette / esplenette pepper, but as that’s not easy to source in the UK, changing that is one of the tweaks I made. I think Hande also made hers in a loaf tin, but I favoured a round tin.
I suspect my version is a little moister than Hande’s. I used local Concorde pears (a hybrid of Conference and Comice), which were firmly ripe, but still added a fair bit of moisture to the mix. Hande said “I aimed for a batter that is not too runny but not too stiff either, when you pour it into the pan it does hold for a couple of seconds before gently flowing to all corners”, giving an optional 1 tablespoon of breadcrumbs if your batter was too runny. I didn’t do this, but instead increased the flour slightly.
I also suspect I assembled mine in a different manner to Hande, but it’s one of those forgiving batters where the ingredients could be combined in various orders. It’s not the sort of cake where you’re trying to achieve a super-light texture, instead it’s got a texture that’s defined by the nuts – crunchy, slightly oily – and the pears – moist, with the whole concoction shot through with bursts of dark chocolate.
100g dark choc (at least 70% cocoa solids)
115g unsalted butter, melted
70g light muscovado sugar
40g caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of cayenne pepper and a few grinds of black pepper
130g plain/all-purpose flour, or low protein 00
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1. Grease and line a 20cm round tin.
2. Preheat oven to 180C.
3. Lightly toast the hazelnuts, rub off the skins (using a tea towel or cloth; I wasn’t too assiduous about this – too many skins can be bitter, but a little adds flavour) and grind in a food processor to a medium meal.
4. Coarsely chop the dark chocolate.
5. Pear, core and coarsely grate the pear.
6. Sieve together the flour, baking powder and spices to mix.
7. In a large bowl, beat together the sugars and melted butter. Add the egg, vanilla and pinch of salt and beat again to blend.
8. Add the nut meal, pear and chocolate to the bowl and combine.
9. Fold in the flour.
10. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin.
11. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until firm to the touch and lightly browned.
12. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out. Serve warm with cream2 or ice cream, or allow to cool completely. Hande had hers for breakfast. But then she lives in Rome and the sort of cake us Brits would treat as a tea-time treat or pudding gets eaten for breakfast there.
1 So yes, I’ve made a point of saying “unsalted butter” then added a pinch of salt. Why? Well, salt is essential for all foods, unless you have no sense of taste or somehow like your food bland. Put simply, it’s the ultimate flavour enhancer, so even sweets – especially sweets like this with a variety of flavoursome components – benefit from a bit of salt. A pinch. Too much and you may get a salty taste, but too little and it won’t be there to do its work. In the words of renowned London-based chocolatier and pâtissier Paul A Young salt “lifts and balances the sweetness and brings out other flavours.” I have used salted butter in cakes in the past, especially when I’ve not got any unsalted, but the problem with that is that you can’t control the quantity effectively as you can’t be sure how much salt is already in the butter. So it might seem perverse to use unsalted butter then add salt to the mix, but there’s a logic to it!
2 We had clotted cream. I could eat the stuff every day… if I was a bit more blithe about my arteries.
17 responses to “Hande’s pear, chocolate and hazelnut cake”
Cannot wait to try this. Will make in Winchester.
Thanks Daniel, looks yummy. definitely one for next U3A cook.
Easier and more practical than a yeasted cake Pa!
Got a big thumbs up from our lovely Dutch visitors, very discerning eaters and excellent cooks both of them. So that’s high praise indeed. Not overly sweet or rich which is why the clotted cream went so well with it, but then EVERYTHING goes with clotted cream – it’s what my arteries are made of. How on earth did you manage to peel all those pears?
And, indeed, this sounds like a cake for me too, thank you Dan and Hande.
If only we had clotted cream here!
Goes straight on my baking waiting list! Sadly (or maybe just as well) the ‘clotting’ stuff is not available in DE.
I’m tempted to call clotted cream “West Country caviar”, but perhaps the fishy associations aren’t quite right… It is a gorgeous thing though, and I pity the international community that can’t get hold of it.
Actually they sell it in the Karstadt department stores…but I am going to London in April – yay!
I suspect that would be the long-life, UHT version in jars, which I would avoid – it’s not the real deal!
You are right – I’ll just enjoy some while in England
When I was a child in the 1970s and 1980s, you could only get clotted cream in the southwest of England counties of Devon and Cornwall, where it comes from. These days, it’s inevitably made by fewer, larger companies but it is available in supermarkets all over the country. But the best place for a cream tea – tea, scones, jam, clotted cream – is still the southwest. If you can find a place that freshly bakes proper scones!
While I lived in London, we spent every Easter holiday since 1982 in Cornwall, and became addicted to Cream Teas (along with virtually all other Germans who have ever come to the Southwest…)
Aha, so you know the simple pleasure of scone-jam-clotted cream!
OK I’ll let you get on with your life now!
Looks and sounds delicious and I’m going to give it a go, but being in France it will be served with crème cru, the French version of clotted cream and equally healthy!
Hi Liz, that should be good too!
Pingback: Pear, Chocolate and Hazelnut Cake | Maria Dernikos