Another month and another chocolate challenge. This is my entry in the November “We Should Cocoa” chocolate challenge hosted this month by Chele of Chocolate Teapot. This month the challenge is to combine caramel with chocolate. I had to think about that one for a bit, until I saw some nice looking pears in the supermarket. You need a ripe but quite firm pear for this recipe – if the pear’s too soft it will fall apart completely in the caramel.
Friands always feel like a bit of a faff as you melt butter and separate countless eggs but actually they’re really easy and quick once you’ve done the preparation.
This recipe will make around 10 – 12 friands, depending on the exact size of the holes in your tin. Of course, you don't have to have a friand tin - a muffin tin will do perfectly well. Friands are a nice shape, though.
The caramel in this recipe should end up quite thin, coating the pear without setting too hard. With that in mind, if in any doubt, err on the side of lighter caramel rather than risk burning the sugar.
For the caramelised pear:
1 ripe but firm pear
125 g caster sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice, plus a little extra for sprinkling on the pear
For the friands:
225 g icing sugar
80 g '00' flour (ordinary plain flour will work fine, I'm just being fussy)
130 g ground almonds
7 egg whites, at room temperature
170 g butter, melted and cooled, plus a little extra for coating the tin
50 g dark chocolate, very finely chopped
Peel, core and chop the pear into small chunks. Sprinkle these with a little lemon juice and set aside while you make the caramel. Add the caster sugar to a pan and heat it gently until it begins to melt. I follow Delia (we are not worthy) Smith’s advice and only stir after about ¼ of the sugar has melted. From that point on keep stirring and heating but do both gently. At the same time, warm the lemon juice a little. Once the caramel is smooth and a deep amber colour, take the pan off the heat and stir in the lemon juice (be careful – there's likely to be some spitting and bubbling of seriously hot sugar). Keep stirring for a couple of minutes until the caramel has cooled a little, then add the pear and continue to stir for another minute or so. The pear will soften in the hot caramel and should end up thoroughly coated. Set the pear and caramel mix aside to cool completely.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Prepare the friand (or muffin) tin by brushing carefully with melted butter – these cakes have an annoying tendency to stick if you're not thorough with the butter.
Sieve the icing sugar, flour and ground almonds and mix them together in a large bowl. Whisk the egg whites briefly just until they're frothy – you only want to loosen the egg whites, you don't want to whisk them until they're stiff. Gently stir the egg whites into the dry ingredients until they're thoroughly combined, but don't overwork the mixture. Now stir in the melted butter, again until thoroughly combined. Drain any excess caramel from the cooled pear chunks and carefully stir the pear and the chocolate pieces into the mixture. You could reserve some of the pear chunks for sprinkling on the top of the cakes just before putting in the oven if you prefer.
Spoon the batter into the tin – each hole needs to be about ¾ full. Bake in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes, until lightly golden and springy to the touch. Allow the friands to cool in the tin for a short while before removing them and transferring to a rack to cool completely. Dust with icing sugar if the mood so takes you.