BROWN BUTTER DOUGHNUTS WITH EMBER & BAY-BAKED PEARS & CHOCOLATE SAUCE
Preparation 45 minutes, plus rising Cooking about 1 hour Makes 20 I love an autumn barbecue, and baking pears in the remnants of a fire is a great way to cook them. Make sure the embers aren’t too hot, although if the pears catch slightly on the outside, it doesn’t matter – it’s the soft flesh inside that you’re after.
FOR THE DOUGHNUTS 75ml buttermilk 75ml whole milk 7g fast-action dried yeast 60g unsalted butter 250g strong white bread flour 40g caster sugar, plus extra for coating 1 egg, beaten 1½ litres vegetable oil, for deep frying FOR THE CHOCOLATE SAUCE 200g dark chocolate 125ml double cream 75ml whole milk 2 tbsp golden syrup FOR THE PEARS 10 ripe pears 6-8 branches of bay leaves, about 25cm in length, soaked overnight in water 4 tbsp Eau de Vie Poire William
1 Warm the buttermilk and milk in a pan; remove from the heat and stir in the yeast. Set aside for 15-20 minutes. In a separate pan, heat the butter on a medium temperature until it starts to colour. Watch closely – it should smell nutty. Take off the heat, transfer to a bowl and leave to cool for 10 minutes. 2 Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl then add the yeasty milk, butter, caster sugar, egg and a good pinch of salt. Bring together into a dough and knead on a floured surface for 10 minutes. Lightly brush a bowl with vegetable oil, pop the dough in and cover. Leave in a warm place until doubled in size. Knock the dough back, chop into 20 pieces, then roll into small balls. Transfer to oiled baking sheets and cover loosely with oiled sheets of clingfilm. Leave to prove for 30 minutes. Heat the oil to 180°C, then fry the doughnuts in batches for 2½ minutes on each side until golden. Transfer to kitchen paper, then toss in caster sugar while warm. 3 Melt the sauce ingredients in a small pan, stirring until shiny and smooth. 4 When the embers of your fire are glowing, remove the bay branches from the water and dry with kitchen paper. Lay a sheet of foil on a worksurface, then arrange 3 or 4 branches in the centre. Sit half of the pears on top, gather up the foil and scrunch to create a parcel – spoon in 2 tbsp of the Poire William just before sealing. Repeat with the second parcel, nestle into the embers and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the pears are soft to the touch. Serve with the chocolate sauce.
Preparation 35 minutes Cooking 1 hour 30 minutes Serves 8-10 Half of my family hail from Germany and I’ve eaten plenty of great German cakes over the years – a good Nusskuchen is hard to beat. Each autumn, I contemplate the naïve romantic notion of gathering my own hazelnuts from the hedge of coppiced hazel that leads into the orchard; I’ve yet to get there before the squirrels.
100g hazelnuts, plus a few whole ones to decorate 200g unsalted butter 200g caster sugar 4 eggs, plus two egg whites 200g plain flour 4 tbsp milk 1 tsp baking powder 4 tbsp strong coffee 7 pears 2 tbsp caster sugar 1 star anise 300ml double cream icing sugar, to decorate
1 Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven) gas mark 4. Grease and line two 20cm cake tins. Blitz the nuts in a food processor until fine. Cream the butter and sugar together with an electric whisk until pale and fluffy, then whisk in the 4 eggs, one at a time. With a spoon, mix in the nuts, flour, milk, baking powder and coffee. 2 Whisk the 2 egg whites in a separate bowl until they form stiff peaks, then carefully fold into the cake mixture with a metal spoon. 3 Divide the mixture equally between the lined cake tins, then bake for 25-30 minutes until golden and a skewer comes out cleanly from the centre of the cakes. Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. 4 Turn the oven down to 140°C (120°C fan oven) gas mark 1. To make some dried pear slices for the decoration, firstly cover a baking sheet with parchment, then thinly slice 3 of the pears and spread them on the sheet. Bake for one hour, flipping the slices halfway through. Set aside to cool. 5 Peel, core and chop the remaining 4 pears, then add to a pan with 2 tbsp caster sugar, a splash of water and the star anise. Simmer on low for 20 minutes or so (depending on how ripe your pears are) until the pear has softened but not dissolved to a purée. Cool before using. 6 To assemble, whisk the cream until thick, then spoon over the base cake layer. Spoon a layer of the cooked pears on the cream, then top with the second cake. Arrange the dried pear slices on top with a few hazelnuts, then dust with icing sugar.