Gluten free jam drops

Recently, Kid 1 has assured both myself and The Yak that we are not cool. I was the first to transgress after daring to use the word ‘swag’, a young persons vernacular for ‘cool’ or ‘awesome’. The second infringement came from The Yak when he attempted a ‘dab’ (a particular two arm salute currently popular with the youth of today). After both incidents, the Cool Kid informed us that we were both totally cringeworthy and embarrassing.

He is wrong, I am cool. (Sorry Yak, you are being left high and dry here.) This mother can still drop some cool jam. Well, some cool jam drops. Gluten free, melt in the mouth with a tangy raspberry centre. Enjoyed by both young and old. And that’s just swag.

GLUTEN FREE JAM DROPS

WHAT YOU NEED
150g unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 1/2 cups gluten free plain flour, sifted
1 1/2 tbls raspberry jam

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat the oven to 180C and line two trays with baking paper.
Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla until it is light and fluffy.
Add the flour and beat to combine.
Roll one large teaspoon of the dough into a ball, place on the tray and slightly flatten it with the palm of your hand. Repeat with the remaining dough, I got 15 biscuits.
Using your thumb, place an indentation in each biscuit then spoon in about 1/4 tsp of jam on each biscuit.
Bake for about 12-15 minutes until each biscuit is very lightly golden.
Let the biscuits cool on the tray for about 15 minutes (don’t try and move them too quickly as they are delicate and could break) then place on a wire rack to cool completely.
Eat them.

Recipe from http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/gluten-free-jam-drops/9c314daf-e2b9-4374-b3ea-9dd54abf4976

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Ginger shortbread for Christmas

Just as ginger is spicy and hot, I too, am a bit of a hot mess. Losing two absolutely beloved people in one year and all that comes with that, alongside some health issues; my blogging and writing mojo is sporadic at best. Frankly, my Cheergerm soul is weary, low and well, not so cheery as of late. As I tried to write this post, nine year old Kid 2 was beside me, wrapped in my doona; bouncing, rolling and banging his skinny bony knees into me. Asking me the same question over and over again. I snapped at him, then felt bad. He told me his new job ‘is messing up beds.’ This made me laugh. No chance of an idealised writing environment in my life, where is that solitary attic with a wooden desk that I once dreamed of?

Its been hard to get excited about Christmas, a season that usually provides much delight. Having children pushes me to make an effort. Writing the stripped back truth about your feelings can smack of self-pity and over-introspection. Whilst I am more than happy to read of others struggles, to write about my own leaves me feeling exposed and vulnerable. In the midst of it, I also know that things are so much worse for so many and that our children are healthy and happy. Rather than continue in this vein, here is a list of little joys I have collated from this past week.

The young kindergarten lass at the school Christmas concert on Friday night who raucously and joyfully sang ‘la la la’ shaking her head (much as a headbanger would at a Metallica concert).

Watching Kid 2 at the same concert, impersonating a kookaburra during a song with great abandon, all self-conscious anxiety placed aside for a moment.

Our twelve year old Kid 1 picking out small Christmas gifts for his kindy buddies, selflessly and of his own volition.

All the appreciative folk who view our street’s Christmas lights with gratitude and wonder.

The ongoing support of family and friends and the camaraderie I have found in this online blogging community.

The Scottish people, my ancestors, for creating that delicious biscuit called shortbread. Attributed to Mary Queen of Scots in the 16th Century, it was an expensive luxury for the ordinary folk. In Shetland, it was once traditional to break a piece of shortbread over the brides head as she crossed the threshold of her new home. (Not sure how I would have felt about buttery crumbs through my hair but this shows how special this biscuit was.)

My creation this year combines warm spices with small nuggets of ginger that add a chewy, toffee-like surprise. I used a brand that stated it was ‘un-crystallised bare ginger’ but it still has some cane sugar on it, so I am not quite sure what the difference is. (I imagine it contains less sugar.) There is nothing quite like giving something homemade as a gift. Pop your baked goodies in a vintage tin or wrap them in some pretty cellophane and finish off the parcel with a darling bauble. Another little joy to add to my growing list. Merry Christmas to you all.

GINGER SHORTBREAD, (CAN BE ADAPTED TO GLUTEN FREE)

WHAT YOU NEED
250g butter
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 3/4 cups plain flour or gluten free plain flour
1/4 cup rice flour
2 1/2 tsps ginger powder
1/2 tsp mixed spice
30g bare uncrystallised ginger, finely chopped (if you can’t find this ‘naked’ stuff just use crystallised.)
Extra white sugar for sprinkling on top

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat oven to 170C and line 2 baking trays with baking paper Sift the flours and spices together into a bowl.
Cream the butter in a stand mixer then add the sugar gradually, beating until the mixture is light and fluffy then stir in the finely chopped ginger.
Work in the flour gradually until the mixture is just combined.
Knead the mixture lightly to bring together to a dough. (I do this in the bowl.)
Divide the dough in half, place onto a floured board and pat each into a square.
Using a rolling pin, roll each square into a 16cm by 16cm square, roughly 1cm to 1 1/2 cm thick. Gently lift the squares onto the prepared trays and cut each square into 12 rectangle fingers.
Prick the surface of the shortbread with a fork. (This helps in releasing moisture as it cooks, making the shortbread crisper.)
Sprinkle extra caster sugar over the shortbread.
Bake in the centre of the oven for ten minutes then reduce the temperature to 150C and cook for about 30 minutes to 40 minutes. It is ready when it is firmish to the touch in the centre and golden around the edges.
Remove from the oven and carefully run a sharp knife through the shortbread rectangles again to make it easier to break into fingers later.
Cool down on wire racks. Gently break the shapes apart.
Wrap up festively and give to your best people, and eat some, always eat some.

Cooking Notes: when making gluten free shortbread, keep in mind the mixture will be more fragile. You may want to shape it into a square rather than use a rolling pin particularly if you are baking on a hot day.

A Cheergerm adaptation from The Margaret Fulton Cookbook 2004 Revised and Updated Edition published by Jannie Brown and Suzanne Gibbs.

Click below for previous shortbread recipes.

Cardamom, cinnamon and brown sugar shortbread
Cranberry, chocolate, pistachio shortbread
Old school shortbread
Gluten free shortbread


Nectarine clafoutis, gluten free

Being the daughter of a woman raised on a New Zealand orchard, it was my destiny to adore stone fruit of all types. Fuzzy floral scented peaches, delicate orange tinged apricots, plums of varying sour-sweetness, luscious ruby-red cherries (that also served as wonderful edible earrings) and of course fragrant white or yellow honey-fleshed nectarines. This abundance of stone fruit speaks directly to my heart of summer, sweet memories and our family history.

Once they start appearing at our local markets, bags of fruit appear in our household and are eaten ‘au natural’, sweet juices dribbling down chins or baked into various desserts and sweet treats. Mr Bagpipes (aka Dad, aka Sweet Tooth Pants) was coming for lunch, hence a fast and easy confection was called for. I whipped this up as quick as a flash (for much of my best work is done at the last minute dontcha know?) Procrastinators unite, is there a club I can join?

The fancy sounding clafoutis (pronounced klah-foo-tee), originates in France and is a sweet eggy batter that is poured over fruit (traditionally cherries) and baked into a light airy custard-like pudding. This would be delicious with any stone fruit but I had an oversupply of nectarines. It is best served straight from the oven as it does deflate rather quickly. (Much as my heart did when Donald Trump was elected President.) Enjoy this summery dessert, we did.

NECTARINE CLAFOUTIS

WHAT YOU NEED
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup milk
60g butter, melted
90g gluten free plain flour
1/4 tsp vanilla bean powder (or 1/4 tsp vanilla essence)
4 nectarines, washed, sliced and de-stoned (300g once destoned)

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Grease a pie or baking dish with butter (I used a 29cm X 20cm baking dish).
Whisk the eggs and sugar together until well combined. (If you are using vanilla essence add it here.)
Whisk in the milk then add the butter, sifted flour and vanilla bean powder, stirring until just combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared dish.
Arrange the nectarine slices over the batter in a pattern that is pleasing to your eye and heart.
Bake for 30-35 minutes until puffy and golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Best served straight after baking as it does deflate somewhat. Great with a wee dollop of ice-cream, cream or creme-fraiche.

A Cheergerm adaptation of a bunch of clafoutis recipes.


Spiced chestnut flour apple cake, gf

Oh no, not that old chestnut.

Rest assured, this is not some stale joke of a cake. After much searching, I finally found some chestnut flour and have been enjoying experimenting with this fine and light textured ingredient. Adapted from a lovely wee recipe on the Gluten Free Goddess blog, this cake is fruity, nutty, earthy and rich with spice.

It has been ‘dinner party tested twice’ and speedily gobbled up. And there is nothing tiresome or old about that.

SPICED CHESTNUT FLOUR APPLE CAKE, GLUTEN FREE

WHAT YOU NEED
Apple mixture
4 apples/ 800g (I used 2 Granny Smith and 2 small pink ladies)
1 tbl lemon juice
1 tsp raw caster sugar

Cake
1 cup almond meal
1 cup chestnut flour
3/4 cup gf plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
1/4 tsp vanilla bean powder (or 1/2 tsp vanilla bean essence)
1/2 tsp fine salt
3 eggs (70g each), room temperature
1 cup loosely packed brown sugar
1/2 cup raw caster sugar
3 tbl light olive oil or grapeseed oil
1/3 cup sour cream

Topping
1/4 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 tsp raw sugar

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat oven to 170C and line a 24cm springform tin with baking paper.
Peel and cut the apples into a 2 cm dice, place in a bowl and add the lemon juice and tsp of raw caster sugar, stir and set aside.
Sift all of the dry ingredients into a bowl.
Beat the eggs and sugars in a large bowl until smooth then add sour cream and oil and combine well. (Add vanilla essence here if you are using it.)
Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet until combined.
Smooth half of the batter over the base of the prepared tin.
Add the drained apples to the tin and gently press down a little.
Spread the remaining batter over the top of the apples. (This ain’t easy.) Then sprinkle the chopped pecans mixed with raw sugar over the top.
Bake for 60-70 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
Cool for ten to fifteen minutes then release from the tin, remove onto a wire rack and let cool completely.
This cake is complemented by a splodge of whipped or double cream or creme fraiche.

An adaptation from the Gluten Free Goddess blog. Link to the original recipe after the photos.

https://glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com.au/2007/03/flourless-apple-cake.html


Peanut butter chocolate brownies, GF

‘Starry, starry night, paint your palette blue and gray.’

Looking down upon this brownie reminded me (ever so slightly), of a two-toned version of Van Gogh’s iconic painting The Starry Night. Yes, it may be a stretch but this is possibly as close to creating a masterpiece as I shall ever get. My ‘swirling’ technique could use some work and my cake decorating skills are limited. I am a dab hand at the fine arts of ‘icing sugar dusting’, ‘coconut sprinkling’, ‘messy look icing’ and ‘rose petal strewing.’ Let’s just call it rustic styling.

Peanut butter is a recent joyous food rediscovery of mine and the chestnut flour contributes a wonderful light crumb. This fudgy brownie with it’s nutty ‘stick to the roof of your mouth topping’ is satisfying. A little bit goes a long way. Well, not in Kid 1’s opinion. He feels that a lot goes a long way and would have attempted to eat the entire tray if he was left to his own sweet-tooth machinations. ‘Tell Dad it’s not gluten free Mum. Please…’, he begged. After a little reconsidering, I realise I am an artist of sorts after all. And this child is one (of two) of my finest creations, no matter how gorgeously greedy he may be.

PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE BROWNIES, GF

WHAT YOU NEED
150g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
100g butter, chopped
75g chestnut flour
3/4 cup caster sugar
2 tbl cocoa powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 eggs, beaten
200g (3/4 cup) peanut butter (I used a natural peanut butter with no salt added)

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat the oven to 160C and line a 16 X 26cm baking pan with non-stick baking paper.
Place the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl and place over a saucepan half filled with boiling water. Make sure the saucepan isn’t touching the water. Use a metal spoon to stir the chocolate until it is melted and smooth.(I actually just placed the chocolate and butter in a small saucepan and melted it over direct low heat whilst constantly stirring but this can be tricky so stick to the tried and true method.) Let it cool for a few minutes.
Sift the flour, sugar and cocoa into a large bowl and stir in the salt.
Mix the chocolate mixture to the flour mixture, then add the eggs and stir until just combined.
Pour into the prepared pan then spoon teaspoonfuls of the peanut butter evenly over the top of the batter. Use a round ended knife (a butter knife) to swirl the peanut butter into the chocolate batter.
Cook for 35-40 minutes or until crumbs stick to a skewer inserted into the centre.
Let it cool completely in the pan then cut into slices and eat it. A fine cup of coffee or good strong cup of tea is the perfect accompaniment to this toothsome treat.

A Cheergerm adaptation of a recipe from the Taste website. Link follows the photos.

http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/16515/peanut+butter+and+chocolate+brownies

Note: The first quoted line is from the song ‘Vincent’ by Don McLean, a tribute to Van Gogh.


Rice pudding with cardamom, rosewater and pistachios. A faerie tale.

Once upon a time, a Cheergerm happened upon a magical sounding exotic rice pudding recipe in a magazine. It was torn out and safely filed/misplaced/lost, never to be seen again. (It is most likely in the same wee hidey-hole as my sanity and my mind.) As human beings are want to do, we hanker after something when it is gone. This dish was concocted from my standard rice pudding recipe and sketchy memory of the one that went missing.

Taking the horse and carriage, I headed out into the dark and grim forest to procure the necessary ‘pimped up ingredients’ of almond milk, rosewater, pistachios and in my opinion, extravagant dried rose petals. To be able to afford these elements, it was first necessary to make a deal with a wicked faerie queen. In classic storybook manner, I agreed to surrender my firstborn when he turned sixteen. (Sucked in stupid faerie, if the last few days have been anything to go by, he will be even less compliant than he has been as a child. If that is even possible.)

This dessert is decadent and creamy with a deep herbal spiciness from the cardamom and highlighted by the sweet floral aroma and flavour of the rose. The Yak and I lived happily ever after for about fifteen minutes whilst we hungrily devoured bowls of this delightful pudding. Now what else can I throw those bloody expensive rose petals over? The End.

RICE PUDDING WITH CARDAMOM, ROSEWATER AND PISTACHIOS

WHAT YOU NEED
1 cup basmati rice
1 litre almond milk (it’s better to use unsweetened if you can find it)
1/3 – 1/2 cup caster sugar (I don’t like it too sweet and how much sugar you need will depend on the almond milk you use)
1/3 cup sultanas
3/4 tsp cardamom powder
Large pinch of salt
1 tsp rosewater
1/4 cup pistachios, roughly chopped
Edible dried rose petals to sprinkle upon said dessert in a bewitching manner, you may need to take a mortgage out to purchase these

HOW YOU DO IT
Rinse the rice.
Place the rice, almond milk, 1/3 cup sugar, sultanas, cardamom and salt into a medium size saucepan. Stir and taste this mixture to see if you need to add more sugar.
Bring the mixture to the boil then reduce to a simmer.
Cook for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it is thick and porridge-like.
Remove from the heat and stir through the rosewater.
Serve and sprinkle with the chopped pistachios and dried rose petals. Oh, so very pretty.

Note: one of these photos shows a brand name product, rest assured, no payment has been received for this post. Considering the cost, I wish! This also makes a great breakfast dish.

A Cheergerm creation


Gluten free weet-bix slice and The Mo Theory

Kid 1 has ‘a moustache theory’. He believes that anyone with a ‘mo’, immediately feels more confident and intimidating than someone without one. Gunna go grow me one….

Until then, the baking goes on, regardless of an outstanding insufficiency of facial hair. My standard weetbix slice uses a creamed butter method but sometimes, you just can’t be arsed bothered with all that malarkey. So a melt and mix slice was required, I had been wanting to use gluten free weetbix for a wee while now. (The Yak was a very happy little coeliac when a certain company started producing these iconic baked breakfast bricks using gluten free sorghum flakes.) This recipe works a treat and is nice and quick.

All of you wheat tolerant out there may be thinking, big whoop. Our Yak is no cry baby and as we all know, far worse things happen than being a coeliac. It’s just that every now and again, he wants to eat something that is as delicious as the original memory of a dish ever was. This is one of those dishes.

Whether ye be coeliac, gluten intolerant or just experimental, ye will not be unhappy. (But if ye are, dont tell me. Well go on, if you really must.)

GLUTEN FREE MELT AND MIX WEETBIX SLICE

WHAT YOU NEED
3 plain gluten-free weetbix
1 3/4 cups gluten-free self-raising flour
1 tbl cocoa powder
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup dessicated coconut
125g butter, melted
2 tbl milk

Icing
3/4 cup icing sugar
2 tbl Cocoa powder
50g butter
1 tbl hot water
3 tbl extra dessicated coconut (you can get some super nice organic and sulphur free coconut from health food shops these days.)

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat the oven to 180C (170C fan-forced) and line a 26cm X 18 cm tin with baking paper.
Crumble the weetbix finely into a large bowl.
Sift over the flour and cocoa.
Stir through the sugar and coconut until all ingredients are combined.
Add the butter and stir then add the milk and stir again until well combined.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and press down firmly (I use my fingers).
Bake for 20-25 minutes.
Allow to cool.
Sift icing sugar and cocoa together into a medium sized bowl. Add the butter then the hot water and stir until runny.
Pour the icing over the cooled slice and spread. Sprinkle the coconut over immediately. Let the icing set then cut the slice into squares.
Makes, well, enough.

A Cheergerm adaptation of a recipe from the Best Recipes website. Link follows.

Footnote: (Or is that ‘thumbnote?) My wrinkly thumb has somewhat of a starring role in these photos, deepest apologies.

http://www.bestrecipes.com.au/recipe/weet-bix-slice-L5572.html


Quinces baked in honey

‘They dined on mince, and slices of quince
Which they ate with a runcible spin
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon. ‘

An excerpt from the lyrical ‘The Owl and the Pussy-cat’ by Edward Lear. This nonsensical poem has always tickled my fancy. From the pea-green boat, the unlikely pairing of a cat and an owl to the mince, quince and runcible spoon. What on earth is a runcible spoon? Conjecture abounds and opinion is varied. (Yes, another hard hitting exposé from the Cheergerm. Not exactly a hot topic on Twitter but it still matters, right?) It is certainly a word that Lear made up and appears in several of his works in different connotations. There is a ‘runcible cat’, a ‘runcible hat’, a ‘runcible goose’ and a ‘runcible wall’.

Some dictionaries define a ‘runcible spoon’ as a fork with three curved tines, or a ‘spork’. In one of his accompanying illustrations, Lear actually drew the ‘runcible spoon’ as more of a ladle. Some believe that it was a spoon designed specifically for babies by one of Edward Lears friends, George Runcy. However, this does not explain the varied use of the word in his other poems. It is most likely a word that Lear invented purely because of the delicious way it sounds and not because it had any real meaning to him.

Quince is my current fruity obsession. This dish is baked long and slow in butter and floral pink-tinged honey, given by a friend. Dark in colour, achingly soft and sweet; you can definitely cut these quince with a spoon. Preferably a runcible spoon.

QUINCES BAKED IN HONEY

WHAT YOU NEED
3 large quinces, washed well
80g butter
4 tbl runny honey
1/4 cup water

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat the oven to 150C.
Wash the quinces very well. Halve but do not peel the quinces then remove the pips and core each of them with a spoon to make a hollow. (This is not a job for wimps. Be warned.)
Place in a gratin dish that will hold them snugly (unlike mine) and using a third of the butter, grease the dish.
Arrange the quinces, hollow side up. Divide the remaining butter and honey between the hollows and pour water gently around the sides.
Cover the dish with foil and bake for at least 3 hours (denying on the size of the quinces) until they are soft and rich red. (Turn quinces over after 1 1/2 hours.)
Serve hot or warm with hollows filled with the honey juices and with cream, ice-cream , yoghurt or marscapone.

Recipe from The Cooks Companion by Stephanie Alexander , published by Penguins Books, 1996


Quince and apple pudding, gluten free

A recent conversation with Kid 1, went like this.

Me: How does it feel to be turning twelve?
Kid 1: Oh, I’m really not that fussed about birthdays. Another year older, another year closer to death.
Me: Wow, that’s a bit of a downer!
Kid 1: Imagine how much worse it would be if I died before I even turned twelve? They could put on my tombstone ‘Kid 1. Never reached puberty.’ Or ‘Never been kissed.’
Kid 2 then chimed in. ‘Or never got a girls phone number. (The back story being that a girl gave him her number when he was a mere six years old. Nothing quite compares to beating your older brother in the romance stakes.)

The good news is that he made it to twelve. His sense of humour and unique view of the world is a constant joy to us. (And keeps us on our toes.) He was a big fan of these aromatic and autumnal wee puddings. The smell of the cooking quince was the musky, heady smell of an orchard full of every ripe fruit you could possibly ever imagine. This golden knobbly produce starts out as rock hard and with slow, gentle cooking, morphs into soft, sweet delectable flavoured fruit with pale pink to deep ruby colour flesh. (The longer and slower it is cooked, the deeper red it becomes.)

Adding a modicum of tart green apple adds a welcome sharpness and when topped off with a subtly spiced gluten free sponge, this is a fabulous wee pudding indeed.

Happy Birthday Kid 1, I promise to make these again for you soon.

QUINCE AND APPLE PUDDING, GLUTEN FREE

WHAT YOU NEED
2 large quinces
1 lemon
1 large Apple, peeled and chopped into 2-3 cm pieces
1 large knob of butter
1 cup water
2 tbl soft brown sugar
Pudding topping
60g butter, room temperature
50g soft brown sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
100g plain gluten free flour
50g ground almonds
2 tsps gf baking powder
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/4 tsp vanilla bean powder or 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1/4 cup milk

HOW YOU DO IT
Squeeze the lemon and place in a bowl full of water. Peel and chop the quince into 2-3 cm cubes and place immediately into water, this stops the quince discolouring.
Place the quince, butter, brown sugar and 1/4 of a cup of the water into a medium saucepan. Cook the quince on a low heat for about 30 to 40 minutes, once it starts to soften, add the apple and cook for another 20 minutes until the apple just starts to soften. Check regularly to ensure the water doesn’t dry out, replenish if it does.
Whilst the fruit is cooking. Preheat the oven to 180C and butter six small ramekins or tins or one large 1 litre pie dish.
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. (Add vanilla essence if using here.)
Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each.
Sift the gluten free flour, almond meal, baking powder, mixed spice and vanilla bean powder.
Fold the flour mixture and milk alternately into the egg mixture to make a soft batter.
Divide the cooked fruit between the tins then cover with the topping.
Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until well risen, firm and golden brown. (A one litre pie dish may take more like 30 minutes.)
Serve hot with cream, ice-cream or yoghurt. Kid 1 also loves them cold for a breakfast treat as well.

A Cheergerm recipe, the sponge batter adapted from a Stephanie Alexander recipe.


A fight to the death and chocolate swirled pavlova

Some marriages are life-long love affairs, full of flowery and undying proclamations of romantic love. Others are like a military alliance, where the couple march steadily along the highway of life, side by side, enjoying common goals with stoic fortitude. Some marriages are simply just endured and others don’t make it at all. Whilst ours has had its bursts of romance and is based on a rock solid friendship, it is probably best described as a prolonged torturous comedic metaphorical fight to the death. The winner of the day is the one who gets in the best joke, at the others expense of course. The final victor will be the last one left standing. I am going to make sure it is me.

This pavlova was made for a friends pre-Easter soirée. The Yak was a big fan of the grown-up savoury spiciness of this dessert. The soft buttery pears, the chewy meringue, the tangy sour cream and the sweet heat of the gingery syrup was a food revelation. Happy fifteenth wedding anniversary Yak. In the face of the fear that I won’t do better at this late stage of the game; I guess you’ll do.

CHOCOLATE SWIRL PAVLOVA WITH MAPLE POACHED PEARS

WHAT YOU NEED
6 small pears, peeled (I used rather large Corella pears but smaller pears would have looked better on the pavlova)
2 cup (250)ml maple syrup
5cm piece ginger, sliced
6 fresh bay leaves (I didn’t have any fresh, so I didn’t use any.)
6 egg whites, room temperature
1 1/2 cups caster sugar (330g)
1/ tsp white vinegar
1 tsp cornflour
2 1/2 tbls cocoa powder
300-400g creme fraiche
1 tsp pure icing sugar, sifted

HOW YOU DO IT
To make the maple pears: place pears, maple syrup, ginger, bay leaves and 3 cups water (750ml) in a saucepan.
Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then cover the circle with a circle of baking paper and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 45 minutes or until tender. (My bigger pears took about 1 hour and fifteen minutes.) Remove pears from the liquid.
Discard half the liquid, reserving the bay and ginger. Return the remaining liquid, bay leaves and ginger to a deep saucepan and place over high heat.
Boil the liquid for 30 minutes or until thick and syrupy. Cool completely and set aside.
To make the pavlova, preheat the oven to 180C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
Place baking paper on a large tray and draw an 18 cm circle.
Beat the egg whites and a pinch of salt to firm peaks.
Keep beating the egg white on low adding the sugar a tablespoon at a time.
Once all of the sugar is added, continue beating on a medium speed until the meringue is no long gritty to the touch and is stiff and glossy.
Fold through the vinegar, cornflour and 2 heaped tsps of the cocoa.
Spread into the prepared tray and sprinkle another 2 tsps of the cocoa over the pavlova and using a palette knife, swirl the cocoa through the pavlova.
Place it in the oven and drop the temperature down to 130 (120 fan forced) and bake for one hour. Rotate every 20 minutes to ensure even baking and colouring.
Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and let the pavlova cool down in the oven for at least 3 hours.
Combine the sour cream, icing sugar and remaining 1 tsp cocoa and spread over the pavlova. Halve (or quarter) the pears and arrange over the top. Served drizzled with the reduced maple syrup and scatter with the bay leaves. (If you had any.)

A Cheergerm adaption of a recipe from the April 2016 Delicious magazine. I changed the pavlova method