Saturday, April 21, 2018

Pear Caramel Chocolate Cake




If there is a cake for every season, I think this pear caramel chocolate cake is a strong contender for autumn. Maybe it's the golden caramel colour. It reminds me of yellow gold autumn leaves and russet brown bosc pears. I didn't use bosc pears for this cake though, but the packham which I trust for holding its shape when poached or saute.

There are 6 components to this cake- chocolate sponge, vanilla syrup, caramelised pears, caramel sauce, caramel mousse and crushed caramel. The cake is fairly easy to make, especially if you work with caramel before.

This is the type of cake I love to make and eat. It is light, and surprisingly with the amount of caramel in this cake, not overly sweet. And of course, we can't go wrong with the classic flavour combination of pear, caramel and chocolate.



Pear Caramel Chocolate Cake
(adapted from Patisserie by Christophe Felder)

Makes 15cm cake

Vanilla Syrup
35ml water
25 grams caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make vanilla syrup:
Combine the water, sugar and vanilla extract in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves, bring to a simmer for 1 minute. Remove from heat and set aside to allow to cool completely.

Chocolate Sponge Cake
75 grams plain flour
20 grams dutch-processed cocoa powder
120 grams egg whites (about 4)
60 grams caster sugar
60 grams egg yolks (about 3)

To make chocolate sponge cake:
Preheat oven to 160 degrees celcius fan-force. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.

Combine and sift flour and cocoa powder. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites at medium speed until foamy. Gradually add sugar and whisk until stiff peaks form. Add egg yolks and whisk until combine, about 5 seconds.

Remove bowl from mixer, and gently fold the flour and cocoa powder mixture into the egg mixture with a flexible spatula.

Spoon the cake batter into a piping bag fitted with 1cm plain tip. Pipe half into 16cm circle on each of the prepared baking trays.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until just firm to touch. Transfer cakes to a rack to cool completely.

Caramelised Pears
1 vanilla bean
25 grams caster sugar
300 grams peeled and diced pears (I used packham pears)

To make caramelised pears:
Split the vanilla beans lengthwise in half and scrape out the seeds.

Place sugar in a small frypan or skillet over medium-high heat. Allow sugar to melt and turns a light amber colour. (Tip: when sugar starts to brown in spots, rather than stirring which cause crystallization, gently swirl the pan to even out the colour and keep the hot spot from burning.)

Add the pears and vanilla beans and seeds and cook, stirring until tender and caramelised on all sides, about 5 minutes. (Tip: you might find that the caramel will seize up when you add the pears. It's fine. Keep stirring until the caramel liquefy and completely coats the pears. Don't be afraid to turn down the heat to low if required.)

Remove from heat and allow to cool completely. Remove the vanilla beam.

Caramel Sauce
75ml heavy cream
30 grams caster sugar
15 grams unsalted butter

To make caramel sauce:
Warm heavy cream in microwave oven for 30 seconds. This will make it easier to combine with the caramel then if it were cold.

Place sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Allow sugar to melt and turns to a medium amber caramel. (Tip: when sugar starts to brown in spots, rather than stirring which cause crystallization, gently swirl the pan to even out the colour and keep the hot spot from burning. Lift pan from heat while swirl the pan. And don't be afraid to turn down the heat to low if required.)

Carefully pour the cream into the caramel in three batches, stirring with a wooden spoon after each addition until smooth.

Add the butter and cook over medium heat until the caramel sauce is creamy and smooth, about 10 seconds. Remove from heat.

Caramel Mousse
100 grams caster sugar
30ml water
3 gold strength gelatine sheets (2 grams per sheet)
60 grams egg yolks (about 3)
1 tablespoon caster sugar
125ml milk
300ml heavy cream, cold

To make caramel mousse:
Note: make caramel mousse only when you have make all the above components and are ready to assemble the cake.

Place sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Allow sugar to melt and turns to a dark amber colour. (Tip: when sugar starts to brown in spots, rather than stirring which cause crystallization, gently swirl the pan to even out the colour and keep the hot spot from burning. Lift pan from heat while swirl the pan. And don't be afraid to turn down the heat to low if required.)

Carefully stir in water. This will reduce the temperature, so slightly reheat the caramel. (Tip: you might find that the caramel will seize up when you add the water. It's fine. Keep stirring until the caramel liquefy. Don't be afraid to turn down the heat to low if required.) Remove from the heat.

 Soak the gelatine sheets in a bowl of cool water. Set aside while you are making the custard.

Whisk egg yolks and 1 tablespoon caster sugar in a bowl until light and creamy and sugar dissolves.

Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan. Whisk it into the egg yolks and return the custard to the saucepan. Pour in the watered-down caramel.  Cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the custard thickens slightly and coats the back of the spoon.

Squeeze the gelatine sheets dry and stir it into the caramel custard with a wooden spoon until dissolves. Cover surface of caramel custard with plastic wrap. Let the mixture cool, but be careful that it does not set. If it does, reheat it very slightly.

Whip the cream until it folds a firm peak.

Fold one-third of the whipped cream into the cooled caramel custard to lightened it. Gently fold the caramel custard into the remaining whipped cream with a flexible spatula until smooth.

To assemble (part 1):
Place the 15cm diameter x 5cm high cake ring on one sponge cake. Cut off the excess. Repeat with the second sponge cake. Leave one of the sponge cake in the cake ring.

Brush the cake in the ring with vanilla syrup.

Spread the diced pears in the ring over the cake. Reserve some of the pears for decorating if you like.

Pour the caramel sauce over the pears. (Tip: if the caramel sauce thickens too much becomes too difficult to spread over the pears, heat in the microwave for 5 seconds.)

Spread about half of the caramel mousse on top. Make sure to leave enough room for the second cake and another layer of mousse.

Carefully place the second sponge cake on the mousse and brush it with syrup.

Pour over the remaining mousse over the top and smooth it with a thin spatula.

Freeze until the mousse is set, at least 1 hour.

Crushed Caramel
75 grams sugar
1 teaspoon butter

To make crushed caramel:
Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Place sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Allow sugar to melt and turns to a dark amber colour. (Tip: when sugar starts to brown in spots, rather than stirring which cause crystallization, gently swirl the pan to even out the colour and keep the hot spot from burning. Lift pan from heat while swirl the pan. And don't be afraid to turn down the heat to low if required.)

Carefully stir in butter.

Pour the caramel in a thin layer on the prepared baking sheet and spread evenly with a thin spatula. Let cool, then finely crush with a rolling pin.

To assemble (part 2):
Remove cake from the ring. Sprinkle the crushed caramel over the top of the cake. Decorate with the reserved pears and leftover caramel mousse if you like.

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