The reality is we have one, very sad and lonely apple tree in our garden, which yields literally about four smaller-than-an-atom apples a year (if we are lucky!) and I am incapable of keeping even herb plants alive. Unfortunately for me, I think I must accept that nutritional self-sufficiency is not within my grasp.
My lack of horticultural prowess is generally something I’m okay with, but a couple of recent trips to a beautiful B&B on the Suffolk coast did make me somewhat wistful. The owners of the B&B are keen gardeners and grow their own of more or less everything! Their garden is an absolute delight; full of fruit trees, vegetables, beautiful flowers, wild meadow areas and so much more. Luckily for me, on our visits, they had more produce than they knew what to do with, so I got some goodies to take home! Our summer sojourn yielded punnets full of plump, red-as-ruby cherries, whilst our latest stay in autumn saw us taking home a haul of cooking apples and conference pears!
Whilst the cherries have long been eaten and the apples have been stewed for my twice-baked crumble, I decided to try something new with the pears. Given it’s October, I wanted something immediately reminiscent of autumn – something warming and comforting as the nights become longer and the weather turns decidedly chillier – and this recipe is just that. Full of spices, pears and chocolate, eating this cake made me think of crisp leaves crunching under my feet, bonfires and cosy jumpers! The ingredients are brought together into a sponge that’s gorgeously damp and moist thanks to the bananas and maple syrup. This cake is my happy place on a plate.
P.S. I suspect pouring some cold cream or warm custard over a slice could further enhance the comfort factor...
Adapted from Delicious magazine’s Pear and maple syrup banana bread
Yields 10-12 slices
- 3 ripe bananas
- 100g unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing
- 70g golden caster sugar
- 2 small, ripe but still firm pears, peeled, cored and diced fairly finely, dusted in a little flour (I used conference, but I'm sure any would do)
- 1 tbsp maple syrup, plus about another 2 tbsps for drizzle
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 large free-range egg
- 150g plain flour
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 2 tsps cinnamon
- 1 tsp ginger
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- 100g plain chocolate (40%), roughly chopped
Heat the oven to 180C or 160C for a fan oven. Grease and line a 1 litre loaf tin with baking paper or, for a much easier life, use a silicone loaf tin or the pre-made paper loaf liners!
Mash the bananas in a large bowl with the back of a fork, then stir in the melted butter and caster sugar. Beat them all together with a large metal spoon to combine.
Stir through the diced pears, maple syrup and vanilla extract; then beat in the egg.
Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and the spices, then gently fold them in to the large bowl of ingredients, along with the chopped chocolate, using the metal spoon. Fold until all of the dry ingredients have been fully incorporated.
Spoon the mix into the loaf tin, then bake for 45 minutes. The cake should be dark on top with a soft sponge. To check if it's fully baked, stick a skewer or sharp knife into the centre – it will come out clean if the cake is done.
Once you've taken the cake out of the oven, whilst it's still warm, skewer the top of it in a few places, either with a sharp knife or a metal skewer, then drizzle some more maple over the top (I probably drizzled about 2 tsps' worth).
Leave to cool in the tin for 10-20 minutes, then lift out onto a wire rack to cool completely.