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Sunday afternoons are for baking, am I right? At least it’s been that way for me since primary school. In boarding school, all children under the age of 11 had to take a nap on Sunday afternoon. There were only a handful of us older than that, and we stayed up. Oh, what mischief we got up to! Not that we meant to, of course. It’s just that when one is unsupervised and one is boiling toffee, the toffee tends to stick… and burn! I lost count how many pots I ruined burning toffee on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

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One afternoon recently wasn’t quite what I would describe as lazy. In fact, I found myself volunteering at our church’s charity arm, helping to sort and pack the cartons of fruit, vegetables and bread that had been donated from several grocery stores in the area. A program called Second Bite makes sure that there is an avenue for stores to pass on their surplus produce to local churches and charities so that it can be shared with those in need. Most of the stuff is good, and only a fraction is thrown out.

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As well as sorting crate loads of tomatoes, making sure the lemons weren’t mouldy and checking for rust on lettuce, we made up hampers for needy families that were expected the next day. Then, after three solid hours of work, we didn’t leave empty-handed! The boss piled us high with bags of salad, frozen berries, and pears that were badly bruised. I stewed most of the pears, and saved the good ones to go into this flourless pear and chocolate cake; perfect for baking on a lazy Sunday afternoon!

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Flourless pear and chocolate cake {gf/df}
Serves 8

Ingredients
100g unsalted butter or coconut oil, plus 1 tablespoon extra for tin
2 tablespoons caster sugar, for coating tin
100g gluten-free dark chocolate (70%), broken into pieces
1/3 cup (75g) brown sugar
1 tablespoon golden syrup
3 eggs, separated
1 cup (110g) almond or hazelnut meal
1 tablespoon Dutch process cocoa powder
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon baking powder
3 very ripe pears, peeled, cored and cut into half, lengthways
Icing sugar, for dusting

Method
Cut a circle of baking paper to fit the base of a 20cm (8-inch) cake tin. Melt 1 tablespoon butter or coconut oil and brush the inside of the tin, then line the base with the paper and brush again with more butter/oil. Spoon in 2 tablespoons caster sugar, swirl it around to coat the base and sides, then tip out any excess.

Heat oven to 180C/350F. Add almond meal, cocoa powder, baking powder and allspice to a large bowl, and whisk lightly to combine. Melt the chocolate and butter or coconut oil in a bowl over a pan of hot water, remove from the heat, leave to cool. Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and golden syrup in a large bowl until pale and thick; fold into the melted chocolate with the almond mixture.

In a separate bowl, with a clean whisk, beat the whites until they reach a soft peak (try not to whisk them too stiffly or you’ll have trouble folding them in). Stir a spoonful of the whites into the chocolate mix, then carefully fold in the rest of them in 2 additions. Spoon into the prepared tin. Level, then arrange the pears over the mixture, cut-side down.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until the pears are soft and the cake is cooked all the way through. Leave to cool in the tin overnight, and then remove by upturning onto a plate, and then in turn onto a wire rack or cake platter. Dust with icing sugar and serve with crème fraiche.

Notes
Adapted from BBC Good Food

If you don’t have golden syrup, increase brown sugar to ½ cup.

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