"This warm, fragrant dessert is autumn and comfort food combined - a real celebration of the season of mellow abundance and all it has to offer – autumn fruit and elderberries, cooking in red wine and the bewitching aroma and flavour of ginger. Chef and restaurateur Alla Wolf-Tasker uses all the produce that her beautiful Daylesford region of country Victoria has to offer, creating a symphony of delight with this dessert. The ginger cake by itself is heaven but combined with the crimson glossy pears, especially the way Alla serves each pear, sitting on top of a disc of ginger cake, the syrup spooned over - makes you go weak at the knees and certainly has a wow factor for a dinner party." Maeve O'Meara, Food Safari Earth
The ginger cake by itself is heaven but combined with the crimson glossy pears is guaranteed to make you and your guests weak at the knees.
- 8 small-medium firm Corella pears, peeled
- 500 ml shiraz
- 70 g sugar
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 100 g – 200 g fresh elderberries (to taste – they are quite pungent), removed from the stalk
- whipped cream or mascarpone, to serve
- 150 g unsalted butter
- 200 g treacle
- 200 g golden syrup
- 125 g brown sugar
- 300 g plain flour
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 2 tbsp ground ginger
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- 250 ml (1 cup) milk
- 2 eggs
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Freezing time: 1.5 hours
Trim the bases of the pears if necessary so they will sit upright. Combine the wine, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon in a saucepan just wide enough that the pears fit snugly when standing upright. Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Add the elderberries, then the pears, standing them upright. Immediately reduce the heat to low, cover the pears with a cartouche and simmer for about 30 minutes, spooning the poaching liquid over the pears a few times during cooking. To check the pears for doneness, a sharp knife should insert easily. Remove the pears from the cooking liquid and place in a heatproof bowl if you are wishing to serve them warm. Alternately, stand until cool, then cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Reserve the poaching liquid.
For the granita, strain the poaching liquid and place 100 ml -125 ml into a bowl. Reserve the remainder. Stir in 100 ml water, then pour into a shallow tray and freeze. When frozen, scrape with the mixture with a fork to achieve a granita texture. Replace in the freezer until ready to serve.
For the ginger cake, preheat the oven to 170°C. Grease two 20 cm x 30 cm tins.
Place the butter, treacle and golden syrup in a saucepan and stir together over low heat. Add the brown sugar and stir until well combined and dissolved. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and cinnamon into a large bowl, then make a well in the centre. Whisk together the milk and egg, then pour into the well and stir to combine. Stir in the treacle mixture until smooth and well combined. Divide the mixture between the greased tins, then bake for 35-45 minutes or until a knife inserted into the middle withdraws clean. Stand in the tins for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. If serving cool, stand the cake until cool, then wrap in plastic wrap or store in an airtight container until ready to serve.
Meanwhile, place the reserved poaching liquid into a small saucepan. Simmer over low heat until reduced and syrupy. Remove from the heat and set aside until needed. If serving warm, reheat gently just before serving.
To assemble, using a biscuit cutter, cut out discs of ginger cake just large enough to sit the pears on. Place the cake discs in the centre of each plate and brush the tops of with a little of the reduced syrup. Brush the pears with syrup, place on top and drizzle with the remaining syrup. Scrape the red wine and elderberry granita around the pears and serve immediately with whipped cream or mascarpone on the side.