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Warm Days, Chilly Nights: 3 Desserts for September

Sticky Toffee Pear Cake, Honey Panna Cotta with Roasted Plums and Blackberry and Fig Pavlova with Tahini Cream, what's not to love.

By Dorothy Miles

Three fantastic recipes for those warm days and chilly nights in September.

Sticky Toffee Pear Cake

This cake is a twist on everyone’s favourite comfort pud – sticky toffee pudding. This can be served hot or cold with sticky toffee sauce as a dessert, or as a delicious cake with a cuppa. It’s made for those chilly autumn nights that have us reaching for the blanket.

Serves 6

For the cake:

  • 4 small pears
  • 2 strips lemon zest
  • 8 tbsp caster sugar
  • 4cm chunk fresh ginger
  • 100g softened butter
  • 175g dark brown sugar
  • 200g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 80g treacle
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 4 heaped tsp chopped stem ginger in syrup

For the sticky sauce:

  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 115g double cream
  • 90g dark brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Vanilla ice cream to serve (optional)

Method

  1. Peel the pears and slice the bottoms off to create a flat surface, enabling the pears to stand upright of their own accord.
  2. Place the peeled pears in a small saucepan that fits them snuggly and cover with cold water. Add 8tbsp sugar, the fresh ginger (roughly chopped into pieces), and the lemon zest. Place over a high heat and bring up to a simmer before turning down to poach the pears for around 10 minutes until the necks of the pears are tender when tested with a skewer but the main body of the pear retains a little bite.
  3. Remove the pears from the syrup and set aside to drain and cool whilst you prepare the cake.
  4. Preheat the oven to 170c/ gas 4. Grease and line a loaf tin with baking paper
  5. Cream the butter and 175g dark brown sugar using electric beaters until it has become light and fluffy.
  6. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition, adding 1tbsp of the flour along with each egg to help stop curdling.
  7. Once the eggs are combined, fold in the treacle, then the remainder of the flour and baking powder, and the ground and stem ginger.
  8. Spoon the cake batter into the prepared tin then carefully add the pears so that their tops are poking out the top elegantly.
  9. Bake in a preheated oven for 45-50 minutes until the sponge bounces back when gently pressed and a skewer comes out clean when inserted into it.
  10. Leave the cake to settle in its tin for 5 minutes, before lifting it out carefully to cool on a wire rack.
  11. If serving immediately, begin the sauce. Place all the ingredients for the sticky sauce in a saucepan and bring to the boil over a medium heat, stirring regularly.
  12. The sugar should melt and emulsify with the cream to form a shiny, sticky sauce. Allow the sauce to bubble gently for a couple of minutes before removing from the heat.
  13. Serve the cake warm or cold with hot sticky sauce and ice cream. The cake will keep for 3 days in an airtight container. Sticky sauce can be made ahead and reheated when required but is best eaten within 2 days.

Honey Panna Cotta with Roasted Plums

British plums are at their best through late August and September and this dessert is a lovely way to showcase them. It’s light and elegant, perfect for those warmer autumn days.

Serves 2

For the panna cotta:

  • 180ml double cream
  • 40ml milk
  • 25g honey
  • 1 ½ sheets leaf gelatine

 

For the plums:

  1. 4-6 plums
  2. 1 tsp honey
  3. 3 sprigs thyme
  4. 4 amaretti biscuits, lightly crushed (optional)

Method

  1. Measure the honey, milk and cream into a small saucepan and place over a medium heat. Stir occasionally, allowing the mixture to just reach a simmering point, but not letting it boil.
  2. Meanwhile, soak the gelatine in a bowl of cold water.
  3. Once the cream mixture has warmed through, remove the gelatine from the water and squeeze to remove excess liquid then whisk it into the cream until completely dissolved.
  4. Pour the mixture into some dariole moulds, or you can use small ramekins, teacups or small glasses. Allow the mixture to cool at room temperature for about 20 minutes then transfer to the fridge to set for at least 4 hours. These can be made up to 2 days in advance.
  5. For the plums, heat the oven to 170/gas 4.
  6. Halve and stone the fruit. Place them cut side up in a small roasting dish and drizzle with the honey. Lay 2 sprigs of thyme over the top and roast in a preheated oven for 15-25 minutes (depending on the size and ripeness of your fruit) until they are completely soft.
  7. The plums can be served hot with the panna cotta, or they can be made in advance. If making ahead, leave them to cool and store them in the fridge in all of their cooking juices.
  8. When you’re ready to serve the dessert, boil the kettle. Fill a small tray or heat-proof tupperware with hot water from the kettle.
  9. Place the panna cotta mould in the hot water (making sure the water does not go over the edge and touch the cream) and hold it there for 5-10 seconds. The heat will loosen the edges of the panna cotta so that it should glide out easily.
  10. Turn the panna cotta out onto a plate. If it doesn’t come out after a little bit of gentle shaking, repeat the previous step.
  11. Spoon the plums onto the plate, making sure to use up all the lovely juices. Scatter with some freshly picked thyme leaves and crushed amaretti biscuits to garnish.

Blackberry and Fig Pavlova with Tahini Cream

Pavlova is a showstopper dessert. Soft, delicate meringue is crowned with velvety cream and a mound of seasonal fruit. The real theatre comes when you take the first slice and the ruby red juice from the berries oozes across the plate. Meringue is perceived as being somewhat difficult to make. It is not. All it needs is a little time, patience and a spotlessly clean and dry bowl and whisk.

Serves 6

  • 3 large egg whites
  • 75g light brown sugar
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 300g blackberries
  • 2 figs
  • Sprig mint
  • 150ml double cream
  • 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 120c/ gas 1.
  2. Place the egg whites in a large bowl and, using an electric whisk, whip them until they have become stiff and fluffy. You should be able to turn the bowl upside down and the mixture will stay put.
  3. In a small bowl, weigh out the brown and caster sugar. Gradually, one dessert spoon at a time, begin to add the sugar to the eggs, beating constantly at a steady speed. Make sure the sugar is fully incorporated between each addition.
  4. When all the sugar has been added, you should be left with a thick, glossy, latte coloured meringue.
  5. Line a large baking tray with a sheet of baking paper. Use a little splodge of the meringue mixture to stick the paper to the tray to stop the paper flapping around in the oven.
  6. Spoon the meringue into the middle of the prepared baking tray and use a spatula or a spoon to smooth it into a rough circle.
  7. Place into the preheated oven and immediately turn the heat down to 100c/gas ½. Leave it in a low oven for 75 minutes until it has set on the sides but still feels squidgy in the middle.
  8. Turn off the oven and allow the meringue to cool completely in the oven.
  9. When ready to serve, whip the cream with the icing sugar until it just starts to hold its shape in soft peaks. Stir through the tahini.
  10. Dress the blackberries with the zest and juice of ½ lime (plus a tsp sugar if your berries are very sour, but you want a little tartness to balance with the meringue).
  11. Slice the figs into 8.
  12. When ready to serve, pile the cream on top of the meringue and spoon the fruit on top, pouring over the ruby red juices too.
  13. Serve immediately. Pavlova is best eaten on the day it’s made.

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