Even badly bruised pears deserve a second chance – and they sing in this gorgeously sticky dessert
Tom Hunt’s upside-down pear cake.
Tom Hunt’s upside-down pear cake. Photograph: Tom Hunt/The Guardian
Pears have a rapid ripening process that turns them quickly from a hard, impenetrable fruit into a floury mush that browns and bruises easily. The delectable flesh of a ripe fruit is only momentarily perfect, so to avoid a glut of over-ripe pears, control when they ripen by storing them in the bottom of the fridge, where it’s coldest, and take them out one by one to ripen as you need them.
Pears have different uses throughout their life. A hard pear is crisp and refreshing, with a subtle fragrance, perfect for slicing into salads or for cooking when you want it to hold its shape. Softer, ripe pears are good eaten just as they are. And over-ripe and even heavily bruised fruit are best cooked into a nutritious puree or cake such as this one.
Upside-down sticky toffee pear cake
This works well with any pear no matter how hard or ripe and bruised it is: all will melt into the sticky cake dough, and will become a delicious companion to the rich and sticky, date-flavoured cake.
200g dates, roughly chopped
350ml oat drink or milk
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
100ml olive oil
150g unrefined sugar
220g wholemeal flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 pinch nutmeg
½ tsp ginger
½ tsp cinnamon
1-3 pears, cut in half and cored
Heat the oven to 200C (190C fan)/410F/gas 6½. Put the fmovies dates in a saucepan with the oat drink or milk, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes.
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Off the heat, add the bicarbonate of soda and stir for 30 seconds, or until the dates begin to dissolve. Leave to cool, then mix in the olive oil, 50g of the sugar, the flour, baking powder, nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon.
Grease and line a medium-sized cake tin. Sprinkle the rest of the sugar over the base of the tin. If you have only one pear, slice it and lay it out over the base of the tin; if you have two pears, cut them into large chunks; and if you have three or more pears, put the halves cut-side down in the tin.
Cover with the cake mixture and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until just cooked and springy to the touch. Turn out and serve warm.