Sunday, 22 May 2011

Caramalised apple and pear upside-down cake

 It is about the time of year I normally empty, defrost and clean my large chest freezer in the barn.  Now is the time that the stored harvest from last year is at its lowest, so the freezer maintenance is easiest.

The rhubarb is in season and the cherries are busy swelling on the trees, and the apples and pears had a mad blossoming session when the weather got unusually hot in mid-April (just hope the bees and bugs were ready).  We even have some peaches - but we have only ever had one go to delicious ripeness, so that is a wait and see.  I doubt we will get figs this year as the last two extra cold winters have made them start sprouting low down on the trees as all the tips are damaged, despite wrapping in lots of layers of horticultural fleece.

So, the last of the stored poached pears and an unwanted small apple, and a moment's peace.  Time to rustle up a quick fruit cake with a bitter caramel top, zingy soft fruit and light vanilla base.

I have a tarte tatin tin so I use that, but any heavy pan that can take direct heat and go in the oven will do.  Sprinkle sugar to cover the base of the tin and heat until it caramelises.  I didn't weigh this, just put an even layer over the base of the tin.  Heat without stirring.  If it is getting too brown before all the sugar has melted turn the heat off and let all the sugar go to whatever grade of caramel you like.  I like quite a burnt flavour, so my caramel is a dark brown.

sugar caramelising

ready for apples
Get a pan of cold water with ice cubes handy for the next job.  You probably won't burn yourself, but any activity with melted sugar needs extra care, and after once having dipped my finger tip into caramel when laying fruit I now get the remedy available first.  I never regret throwing the cold water away unused!  Caramel sticks to you finger, giving off heat.

Lay your sliced fruit in whatever pattern you like.  Leave this to sit while you get the cake batter going.  This allows time for the fruit and caramel to set slightly so that when you tip the batter in you are less likely to have boiling, slopping or other unwelcome activity.

apples on caramel
Set oven to 175C

Cake batter.
I made a simple cake batter with
50g butter
75g sugar
3 eggs
150g of my gf flour mix (20&cornmeal, 40%urid, 40%tapioca)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
50ml water

Substitute your own favorite fat (soft spread type is easiest) and flour.

Cream fat and sugar together, add eggs, flour, baking powder and vanilla and beat until smooth.  Add water or other liquid to make a soft dropping consistency.  Dollop over fruit and caramel mix.  Bake for about 35 minutes until cooked.
tarte cooked
Take the cake out and, with extreme care and preferably those oven gloves that are joined with continuous padding between the hands, tip the cake out onto a large plate.  Don't get the caramel on your skin.

I decided to see what would happen if I left the tin for a few minutes.  The cake came out fine but quite a lot of caramel had set on the tin.  This seemed a waste, so I reheated it on the stove and scraped it out onto the cake.  This made a messy finish and of course the caramel set too hard to eat easily with the cake so I scooped it off again.  Put it onto a greased plate and eat as candy if you want to retrieve this.

If you leave the cake to cool you won't be able to get it out of the tin.  Place the whole thing back onto heat for a couple of minutes until the outer layer of caramel has remelted then tip onto a plate.

This is really a very simple cake.  I have made it sound more scary by doing the don't-burn-yourself bit.  Once you are used to the process and techniques you will find you rustle up one of these delicious and quit spectacular looking deserts with very little effort.

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