The window of pear perfection when the fruit is at its peak of juicy ripeness and fullest flavour is fleeting. A perfectly ripe pear is one of the pleasures of the English summer, best eaten outside with its soft delicious flesh dripping with juice. It seems that the pear turns from an unripe solid and sour to a woolly browning mush, flecked with gritty stone cells in a matter of hours, which necessitates eating them the second you find they are fully ripe.
The grass in the orchard was scattered with windfalls; casualties of the breeze and still rock hard. These fruit do not always ripen, they quickly go brown where they bruised on their descent from the tree. I’d also gathered a few blackberries from the hedge, which although ripe, were lacking the sweetness that a few more weeks of late summer sun would have brought.
These unyielding unripe windfalls are fantastic for cooking, baking softens them and they still have some shape and texture, whereas a riper fruit would turn to mush, cooking also sweetened my blackberries, which coupled with the pears as well as the more traditional apple.
There is something rather satisfying about cooking with foraged and gathered foods, this traybake is perfect for tea after harvesting your orchard, serve with whipped cream to make it more special.
Recipe: Blackberry & Pear Traybake
Makes 16 squares
110g butter or baking margarine – softened
125g soft light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
190g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch mixed spice
2 tbs milk
1 unripe pear – peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1 tbs demerara sugar
Grease and line a 20cm square baking tin with silicone paper. Preheat the oven to GM4 / 180C (10C less for fan).
Using an electric mixer mix the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla with a tsp of flour to prevent the mixture from curdling.
Gently mix in the flour, baking powder and mixed spice, adding milk to loosen the mixture so it can be dolloped from a spoon and easily spread.
Spread 2/3 of the mixture into the prepared tin, arrange the pear slices on top and scatter the blackberries over, gently pressing into the cake batter in the gaps between the pear slices.
Cover the fruit with the remains of the cake batter.
Sprinkle the demerara sugar over and bake for 30 – 35 minutes until risen and golden brown, and when a cocktail stick poked into the cake comes out clean.
Delicious served warm with whipped cream.