I don’t think you could say that the above look peely-wally (pronounced pee-lay-wah-lay and meaning pale in the Scottish vernacular!) but that’s how they looked the first time I baked the original recipe, which used fresh chopped pear as opposed to caramelised. It may have been that they were supposed to look pale and interesting. Or possibly I should have given them a bit longer in the oven, but time was up, they were cooked and I didn’t.
I was going to present you with before and after photos. Then I figured that if you came upon the before photo on my blog, it would look so unappealing you would not want to read further. Just take my word for it – insipid does not inspire.
So, I decided second time around, to give them a makeover. I’d just been drooling over a Let Them Eat Cakes article in the local rag when I spotted toffee pears as a topping for small madeira cakes and thought this would be the answer to making them look more appealing. I would describe them as buttered or caramelised pears, toffee to me suggests more stickiness. Done this way the pear gives the cakes the colour they previously lacked and a richer, more buttery flavour.
I also cranked up the darkness of the sugar using dark cane muscovado-type instead of light brown sugar. Finally, I checked cooking time to make sure they were nicely coloured as well as cooked just so. And they were.
I have to say I preferred them done this way. I also have to say, and am almost embarrassed to say, that the original recipe is one of Nigella’s.
Lest you think me conceited, I think I need to emphasize that I am not trying to improve Nigella’s recipe (they tasted really good, honest!), I am just titivating my own past attempt (or maybe I should shout from the rooftops - move over Nigella, I’m improving your recipes!).
In Nigella’s recipe, they were muffins. This time I baked half in muffin tins and half in mini Bundt cake silicone moulds. The little cakes looked lovely. Next time, I’ll include an extra caramelised pear and fill the centres of the Bundt cakes once they’ve been cooked. I think that would look really nice.
Caramelised pear & ginger cakes (or muffins!)
1 large pear or 2 small (approx. 300g) I used Beurre Bosc
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp caster sugar
250g standard flour
2 tsp baking powder
150g caster sugar
75g dark cane (or muscovado) sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
42ml* sour cream (about 3 tbsp)
125ml rice bran (or vegetable) oil
1 tbsp honey (I used runny honey)
Extra dark cane sugar to sprinkle on top
Preheat oven to 200°C.
Grease a muffin tray or line with muffin cases. If using mini-Bundt tins grease them. If you have silicone moulds, this is not required.
For the buttered pear
Peel and core the pear and cut into slices. Heat a frying pan, add the butter and the sugar. When bubbling, add the pear slices and cook for a few minutes each side until caramelised. Remove pear slices and place on a paper towel to soak up excess liquid. When cool, chop into small cubes.
For the muffin mix
Use a sieve with a fairly open mesh to combine the dry ingredients – flour, baking powder, caster sugar, dark cane sugar and ground ginger – into a bowl. The sieve will help break up any lumps in the dark sugar. Mix to combine.
In a large bowl, whisk the sour cream, oil, honey and eggs and fold into the dry ingredients.
Gently mix in the chopped pear and divide the mixture between the tins.
Scatter a sprinkling of the extra sugar over the tops.
Bake for 20 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched and are nicely browned.
Cool on a wire tray.
*The 42ml presumably comes from the sour cream pot size sold in the UK and I have converted into tablespoons.