What’s got your goat?
Love it or hate it, goat’s cheese is the perfect pairing for honey and ripe fruits – in this case, raspberries, blackberries and pears – muting its sharpness and enhancing its creamy richness
Goat’s cheese tends to polarise: there are those, like me, who’ll eat it at any opportunity, whether baked into the hollows of a few ripe, sliced figs, on toast, in salads, or melted into a French onion tart; many others won’t go near it. But even if you fall into that latter camp, I hope that you might find something in this week’s recipes to sway you. Here, very mild, soft goat’s cheese is sweetened with sugar or honey, its sharpness muted and its smooth richness enhanced, whether melting luxuriantly into the pear tart or pairing with bright raspberry jam in this almond layer cake. Slip a slice to your nearest and dearest goat’s cheese haters, and watch them enjoy it, none the wiser.
HONEYED ALMOND CAKE WITH RASPBERRY JAM AND GOAT’S CHEESE CREAM
Rich with ground almonds and honey, this is a firm, sweet cake, good enough to eat by itself. I’ve not taken the minimalist approach here, though, instead opting to sandwich the layers with a rich goat’s cheese cream and jam. Because the cheese is so mild (it must be a very soft, crumbly one – the sort to be spread rather than sliced), it adds just a hint of tartness to cut through the honeyed, mellow sponge without overpowering it.
250g unsalted butter, softened
75g caster sugar
4 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
100g ground almonds
200g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
For the cream
100g soft, mild goat’s cheese
100-150ml double cream to taste
2 tbsp raspberry jam
Icing sugar, to dust
1 Preheat the oven to 170C/335F/gas mark 3½. Grease and line two 20cm round, loose-bottomed cake tins.
2 Beat the butter until smooth then add the honey and caster sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition to avoid curdling. You may want to add a couple of tablespoons of the flour along with the last egg to bring the mixture together. Stir in the vanilla extract.
3 In a separate bowl, combine the ground almonds with the flour, baking powder and salt before adding this dry mixture to the wet ingredients. Fold lightly together to achieve a smooth, thick batter. Divide the batter between the two prepared cake tins and smooth the tops of each.
4 Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a small knife inserted into the centre of each cake emerges quite clean. The cake layers should be a rich golden brown and feel springy. Leave to cool.
5 Once the cakes have cooled, prepare the filling. Mash the goat’s cheese with the honey until very smooth.
6 Separately, whisk 100ml of the double cream to soft peaks (take care not to overdo it or it’ll become grainy) then stir a small amount into the sweetened goat’s cheese to slacken it. Fold in the remaining whipped cream gently, keeping as much air in it as possible. Whip and add the remaining 50ml double cream for a milder flavour, if you wish.
7 Spread the jam on one cake layer, then gently dollop the cream on top and spread it to cover the jam. Stack with the second cake layer then dust liberally with icing sugar.
Slip a slice to a goat’s cheese hater and watch them enjoy it, none the wiser
PEAR, WALNUT AND GOAT’S CHEESE FILO TART
I find comice or rocha pears work best here, though any firm, ripe dessert pear will do. The blackberries should be plump and sweet, the goat’s cheese as mild as possible. You could substitute a couple of tablespoons of an aromatic honey in place of some of the sugar, but take care not to overload the tart with moisture, or else the base won’t crisp.
2 medium dessert pears
2 tbsp flour
75g unsalted butter
150-200g filo pastry sheets
4 tbsp caster sugar
75g walnuts, finely chopped
100g soft, mild goats’ cheese
75g blackberries, halved
1 Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6 and inside it place a heavy baking tray large enough to take a 23cm flan dish.
2 Peel, core and thinly slice the pears from the top down into segments. The segments should be elegantly sliced – no broader than 5mm at their wide edge. Toss the pear slices in the flour, tipping away any excess flour afterwards.
3 Melt the butter then brush the base and sides of a 23cm (9”) pie or flan dish with a little of it. Gently lay one sheet of filo in the greased dish and brush with butter. Layer with a second sheet of filo and grease again. Repeat until the filo is 5-6 layers deep, crossing and overlapping sheets if yours are wide enough to cover the entire base of the dish. Leave any overhang untrimmed for the moment.
4 Sprinkle 1 tbsp of the sugar over the pastry base. Scatter the walnuts over the base and arrange the pears over the sugared pastry so that the slices form two tightly overlapped concentric circles. Sprinkle two more tablespoons of the sugar on to the pear slices. Crumble the goat’s cheese all over, scatter the blackberry halves on top and sprinkle with the remaining sugar.
5 Fold any overhanging filo over the top of the filling, ruching the pastry so that it partly covers the tart. Leave a wide circle of filling exposed in the middle. Brush the pastry with butter, melting extra if you need to.
6 Place the flan dish on the now-hot baking tray in the oven – this should help the base to cook quickly and evenly, avoiding a soggy bottom – and bake for 40-45 minutes, until the filo is crisp and the pears tender. Serve warm with a drizzle of cream or ice-cream.