Chocolate and pear skillet cake, gluten-free

chocolate and pear cake, gluten free

Here’s my spin on a delicious cake known as torta di pere, adapted from this excellent recipe.

My version is made with almond flour and honey instead of wheat and sugar. Plus I bake it in a cast iron skillet. A country cake with rugged ingredients and the sophisticated and unexpected combination of chocolate and pear seems perfectly suited to being baked in skillet.

You can use a spring form pan but if you have a 10-inch cast iron frying pan give it a try.

A cast iron skillet is an excellent baking vessel because cast iron enhances brownness and promotes a slightly crisp exterior. Baking this cake in a skillet results in a wonderful crust; the edges and bottom become golden and caramelized yet the inside is moist.

There’s a learning curve to baking with cast iron. Cast iron gets very hot and stays very hot so timing is everything. Once you get the hang of it you can really nail certain recipes, especially things you want soft in the middle with a nice crust.

You can pour your batter into a cool greased pan and then put it in a preheated oven. However, for best results, preheat the skillet by placing it in a cool oven and allowing it to heat as the oven heats before you grease it and add the batter.

chocolate and pear cake, gluten free

chocolate and pear cake, gluten free

chocolate and pear cake, gluten free

chocolate and pear cake, gluten free

Chocolate and pear skillet cake, gluten-free

2 cups almond flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

4 eggs, separated. Beating the egg whites and then folding into the batter results in a lighter cake.

1/3 cup honey

6 tbsp olive oil or oil of your choice. Melted coconut oil or butter works, too.

2 tsp vanilla extract

3 pears, peeled and in a small dice. I used Bartlett pears.

3/4 cup dark chocolate chunks

 

Place 10-inch cast iron skillet in cool oven and turn oven to 350 F or 325 F if using convection. Allow skillet to heat for twenty minutes while you make batter.

In a small bowl mix almond flour, baking powder and salt.

In a larger bowl cream the eggs yolks, honey, oil and vanilla. Add the almond mixture and combine well.

Beat the egg whites and fold into batter.

Carefully remove the heated skillet from the oven and grease it by adding add 1 teaspoon of oil, butter or coconut oil, brushing to coat the bottom and sides.

Pour in batter and top with diced pear and chocolate chunks.

Return to oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and light to the touch. Doneness is more important than baking time so be sure to check by light touch or the toothpick method.

Remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes. Best served at room temperature or slightly warm.

Store any remaining slices in an airtight container in the fridge.

Chocolate and pear skillet cake, gluten-free

Wabi-sabi; appreciate without panic

wabi-sabi

I wrote about wabi-sabi, how it can help you look at your day-to-day life differently and put you at ease.

You might be ask: what good is a concept that reminds you things shrivel, break or die?

It’s quite good, actually.

Here’s an example from my own life.

See the painting above? We saw it hanging in a gallery one summer vacation and were smitten. However, we left without buying it. After all, we were only there to look. But we couldn’t stop talking about it, so we returned to the gallery for one last look and that was that. The painting became ours.

That was 2004, around the same time a powerful tsunami hit the Indian ocean. Remember? Heart breaking stories were all over the news. I remember turning away from a newspaper article, looking up at the new painting now hanging on our wall, and thinking it could get destroyed in a fire, flood, or some other unfortunate event. Oddly enough the thought wasn’t troubling. In fact, it put me at ease.

By imagining the painting damaged or gone it suddenly became more precious. It wasn’t about giving way to carelessness or neglect. It was accepting the painting could (will?) one day be gone AND appreciating it, all at once.

That’s what a wabi-sabi perspective offers. Appreciation without the panic.

 

Exhibition kitchen/The Rockpool experience by Elaine Coffee

elaine coffee painting

Viewing life through a wabi-sabi lens

Loneliness does not come from being alone, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important. – Carl Jung

wabi sabi the beauty of things whithered

Discovering a concept that describes an emotion your culture has no word for can help you make better sense of yourself and more able to cope with life’s stresses.

This happened to me several years ago when I learned about wabi-sabi. Wabi-sabi (wobby-sobby) expresses things I’ve long felt but had no words for.

Wabi-sabi (not to be confused with wasabi – the green condiment with the strong pungency eaten with sushi) is a concept deeply ingrained in Japanese society and notoriously hard to explain.

I read somewhere if a culture has no word for something then it’s not considered important or significant. It’s not surprising there’s no direct translation of wabi-sabi into English. That’s because a wabi-sabi way of seeing the world is quite different from the way we typically see things in the West, especially when it comes to expressions of beauty.

wabi sabi dried sun flower

wabi sabi old barn

wabi sabi

wabi sabi dried flowerIt’s easy to forget ideas of beauty aren’t universal. In the West we lean toward Greek ideas about beauty, which focus on perfection – symmetry and proportion, glossiness, newness and freshness. Wabi-sabi shifts the balance away from perfection in favour of authenticity.

Wabi-sabi is a mind set, a way of seeing things but it’s also expressed in certain physical characteristics. Things earthy, modest, organic, rustic, simple, and things that bear the mark of time because they have been so well cared for are all beautiful and all very wabi-sabi.

wabi sabi aged utensils

wabi sabi

wabi sabi old church

wabi sabi

wabi sabi weathered basket

It helps to know wabi-sabi started out as separate terms.

In the 8th century sabi appeared in Japanese poetry and meant the beauty of things withered. Sabi celebrates the toll living takes on everything, and is expressed in the graceful aging of objects in nature as well as things made by hand from materials like wood, wool, clay and cotton. Autumn leaves, a fading flower, aged utensils and weathered wood are considered beautiful because they are authentic. At its core, sabi is about flux and the limited mortality of all things.

Wabi emerged in the 15th century as a reaction to the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, which was lavish, expensive and a means to show off wealth. The ceremonies mostly involved the ruling class and were extravagant affairs. Tea houses were gaudy and expensive imported goods were used. The wabi way of tea is the opposite; humble, quiet, and simple. Beauty exists in the modest and imperfect. Tea is served in locally fired bowls. Decor consists of bamboo and fresh flowers in weathered baskets. Hospitality, not pretension, is what counts.

wabi sabi

wabi sabi fading peony

wabi sabi

wabi sabi dried flowers

Now wabi and sabi are combined, interchangeable and shorthand for finding beauty in the imperfections of life and peacefully accepting the natural cycle of growth and decay. Wabi-sabi is often summed up in three truths:

nothing lasts,

nothing is finished,

nothing is perfect.

Maybe you find wabi-sabi too gloomy and grim a concept to adopt. Or maybe you’re like me and find it unshakable.

I see value in viewing life through a wabi-sabi lens. It’s a way of engaging with life that, although bittersweet, puts me at ease. Accepting life as imperfect, unfinished and transient actually feels quite freeing.