pecan

Pear & Pecan Spice Cake

One of the best things that came from my travels was the foodie inspiration - you know, alongside finding myself and being at one with nature. Much to the dismay of my waistline, Bali and Australia were filled to the brim with incredible cafés, serving up some of the most beautiful dishes I have ever seen. I genuinely don't think anyone can beat the Aussies on the art of plating.

pearcake.jpg

One dish in particular remains etched in my mind. It was at The Kettle Black, one of my favourite brunch spots in Melbourne, set in a beautiful old Federation bungalow. I ordered the bircher muesli, and out it came topped with all kinds of fruit - kiwi, orange, blueberries, pear - cut and arranged to perfection. Somehow they made the fruit look cool.

The beautifully thinly sliced pear in said bowl of muesli was the inspiration for this pear & pecan spice cake. I realise how ridiculous that probably sounds - I won't lie, it has to be one of my more niche sources of inspiration. It is inspiration nonetheless, and as the photos show, it's just amazing how a simple cut of fruit can completely transform a bake. 

Recipe

Ingredients

200g unsalted butter

3 medium eggs

250g coconut sugar (can use caster sugar or golden caster sugar, but reduce to 200g)

200g spelt flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp cardamom

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp all spice

50g roughly chopped pecans, plus extra to decorate

2-3 conference pears 

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line and grease a 23cm cake tin.

2. Peel, core, and finely slice the pears. Place them in a bowl with a squeeze of lemon juice to prevent them browning.

3. Cream the butter and sugar together by hand or using an electric mixer until light and fluffy (about 3-4 minutes).

4. Gradually add in the eggs one by one, making sure each one is incorporated before adding the next.

5. Sift the flour, baking powder and spices in a separate bowl, and gradually fold into the wet mixture in 3 inclusions. Carefully fold in the pecans.

6. Pour the batter into your prepared tin and arrange your sliced pears on top. Don't actually push them into the batter as they'll just disappear into the cake in the oven, so just place them on top. Scatter with your extra rougly chopped pecans. 

7. Bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

8. Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

9. Serve with a dollop of yoghurt and a cuppa!

Nordic Bakery inspired Caramelised Pecan Cinnamon Buns

The best kind of days are the ones that you spend aimlessly walking around London with your best friend. If for nothing else, because they end up inspiring you to bake something new! Last week, we ended up at the Nordic Bakery on Golden Square in Soho. Every time I walk past that beautiful bakery the smell of the freshly baked cinnamon buns pulls me in. Who needs marketing?!

I'm not the biggest fan of hot cross buns, and seeing as it is Easter Weekend, I thought that cinnamon buns would be a great alternative. I will warn you, this recipe is not for the faint hearted as it's long and there are some very specific steps to follow which, if you get wrong, could completely affect the texture of the dough. But this is definitely some of the most fun I've had baking in a while. Working with dough is so satisfying.

I was inspired by the Nordic Bakery Cookbook, but I decided to add pecans into the buns themselves, and then also caramelise some to put on top. The sticky and sweet topping works really well with the soft, layered interior of the buns. If you prefer them without the nuts, just skip those particular steps of the recipe and they will turn out just as nice.

IMG_7366.JPG

Ingredients

For the dough:
230ml milk
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
50g caster sugar
515g plain flour
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
100g unsalted butter

For the topping:
80g unsalted butter
65g caster soft light brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
150g pecan halves

For the filling:
50g unsalted butter
65g caster sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
80g coarsely chopped pecans
2 tablespoons milk

Recipe
Preparation time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

1. Firstly, you'll need to make the dough. Combine the milk and the yeast in a stand mixer until the yeast has dissolved. Add the sugar and whisk until dissolved. Then, switch to the paddle attachment of the mixer and add in half the amount of flour, mixing until the batter is smooth (you can also do this using a wooden spoon if you prefer). Cover the bowl tightly with cling film and allow it to stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

2. When ready, break the eggs into the mixture one at a time, scraping down the sides and making sure they were well incorporated after each addition. Change to the dough hook on your mixer, and then mix in the remaining flour and salt. Knead the mixture at a low speed for 1 minute, and then at a medium speed for 5 minutes.

3. Add the butter to the mixture in about 20g at a time, making sure each addition is fully incorporated. When all the butter has been added and a dough has formed, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead a few times by hand. Shape it into a ball. 

4. Rinse and lightly oil your bowl and return the dough to it with the round side down. Then turn it over so that it is lightly covered in oil all over. Cover the bowl tightly with cling film and place in a warm place to rise for 1 hour 30 minutes.

5. Once the dough has risen, use your fists to punch it down a few times in the bowl. Cover it again and leave in a warm place to rest for 15 minutes.

6. Whilst you wait, you can make the topping. To do this, melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat and stir in the light brown sugar, honey and vanilla extract. Then stir in the pecan halves and mix well until they are covered with the caramel sauce. Grease a 12-hole muffin tin and spread this mixture evenly between each cup. 

7. Then, make the filling. Combine the sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Melt the butter and allow to cool slightly. 

8. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using a floured rolling pin, roll it out into a large rectangle of about 9 x 18 inches. Brush the surface of the dough with the melted butter, and then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over it evenly. Then sprinkle over the coarsely chopped pecans. 

9. Roll the dough up carefully and tightly like a swiss roll, beginning from a long edge. Using a serrated knife, cut the roll into 1.5 inch thick slices. Arrange each slice on top of the pecan topping in the previously prepared muffin tin. Cover with cling film and leave to rise at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200C.

10. When ready, uncover the rolls and lightly brush them with milk using a pastry brush. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until puffed and a deep golden brown colour. Keep an eye on them as they burn easily.

11. Once out of the oven, you should remove the rolls from the tin immediately. Do this by carefully inverting them onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Leave them like this for 30 seconds to allow any topping to fall down, and then remove the muffin tin.

12. The rolls are best served warm, but will also taste lovely when cooled, and should keep in an air-tight container for 3-5 days.