Gluten Free and heavenly!
Hey wheat-eaters! I see you scattering like mice when a light is turned on. Don't run away, come back and try this, I promise you won't be disappointed!
Mini Cinnamon Pear and Hazelnut Cakes
1 cup brown rice flour (I used a beautiful certified organic version from pure food essentials, which is almost as fine as tapioca flour)
2/3 cup hazelnuts (chop finely into hazelnut meal using a food processor, or a Magic Bullet- call it what you like, it was my one Danoz Direct purchase and I'm not ashamed to admit it, it's fabulous!)
1 & 1/2 Tbs tapioca flour
1 & 1/2 tsp baking powder
a pinch or two of salt
a generous sprinkle of cinnamon, approximately 1/4-1/2 tsp
one decent pinch of xanthan gum
120 g unsalted butter (read below for how to prepare)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup Canadian maple syrup (the good stuff, no impostors here!)
1 level tsp vanilla bean paste (I used Queen Vanilla Bean Paste, 1 tsp equates to about 1 vanilla bean, but is more cost-effective ~$10 from Coles- the seeds are still present and it's gluten and allergen free)
2 free range eggs, slightly beaten
2 ripe Packham pears, cored and grated
3/4 cup caster sugar
Additional cinnamon for dusting the mini cakes
120 g unsalted butter
Brown the butter over low heat to separate the butterfat and milk solids. Once the milk solids have started to turn a dark caramel colour in the bottom of the saucepan, remove from the heat and allow to cool. Strain the brown milk solids out of the butterfat and discard, what you will be left with is a deliciously nutty butter, known as beurre noisette. Perfect for baking.
In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly combine the fine brown rice flour, hazelnut meal, tapioca flour, baking powder, pinch of salt, cinnamon, and xanthan gum. Set aside.
In a smaller mixing bowl, add the brown sugar, real maple syrup, vanilla paste, and beaten eggs. Stir until combined, then pour in a continuous stream of the cooled beurre noisette and whisk together.
Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the syrupy mixture, whisk until well incorporated.
Drain or squeeze the pear pulp a little to remove some of the excess juice (reserve this in a measuring cup), ensure the grated pear flesh is still soft and quite moist, add the juicy grated pear flesh to the nutty batter and fold it in until the pear is evenly distributed. If the batter looks too thick, you can add a little of the reserved pear juice.
Grease a 12 cup muffin tin (I used a mini bundt pan I purchased from Victoria's Basement in the Queen Victoria Building at Town Hall), pour the batter into the moulds until they are approximately 2/3 full and bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees Celsius for about 20 minutes, or until the cakes are slightly springy the the touch.
Cool the mini cakes slightly, then invert onto a rack to allow to cool, before rolling them on a plate with the caster sugar and extra cinnamon.
Best served warm with a dollop of freshly whipped pure cream, sweetened a little with sugar and delicately dotted with 1/4 tsp of vanilla bean paste.
These are impressive to serve any time, but are particularly popular if you're heading to a baby shower, a picnic in the park, or for guests at your home for afternoon tea (Oh! That final scenario is the bonus because your home will smell sweet and nutty, with a hint of cinnamon).
They may be gluten free but are soft and light and incredibly addictive.
Taste so nice, I baked them twice (a day apart)!