Saffron poached pears with lemon cake, meringue and cinnamon sauce
This extravagant dessert is a bit of a weekend project but you will be rewarded with something really special.
For the saffron meringue
For the sugared hazelnuts
For the lemon and poppy seed cake
- 2 small or 1 large thin-skinned lemons
- 275g/9¾oz softened butter
- 275g/9¾oz caster sugar
- 275g/9¾oz self-raising flour
- 2 tbsp poppy seeds
- 2 level tsp baking powder
- 4 free-range eggs
For the cinnamon sauce
- 600ml/20fl oz goats’ milk
- 200g/7oz caster sugar
- 75g/2¾oz golden syrup
- 2 cinnamon sticks, broken up in a pestle and mortar
- 1 tsp baking powder
For the poached pears
- 300g/10½oz caster sugar
- 2 star anise
- ½ tsp saffron
- 1 lemon, juice only
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 pears, such as Rocha or Williams, peeled, cored and cut into wedges
For the meringue, preheat the oven to 65C/50C Fan/Gas ¼ (or to the lowest setting on your oven). Line a baking tray with a silicone mat or a sheet of baking parchment.
Whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl until stiff peaks form when the whisk is removed. Gradually whisk in the sugar a little at a time, until the meringue mixture is glossy. Add the saffron and mix.
Spread the meringue in a thin, even layer all over the lined baking tray using a palette knife. Bake in the oven for 3-4 hours, or until completely dried out (this will take less time if your oven temperature is higher than suggested above).
For the sugared hazelnuts, preheat the oven to 130C/110C Fan/Gas 1. Line a baking tray.
Lightly beat the egg white with 1 tablespoon water. Add the hazelnuts and stir until well-coated. Mix the sugar and salt together and sprinkle over the nuts. Toss to coat, and spread evenly on the tray. Cook for 1 hour in the oven, stirring occasionally, until golden-brown. Leave to cool.
For the cake, preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4.
Place the lemons in a small saucepan, cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes, or until very soft and tender. Drain, cut the lemons in half and remove any pips. Place the lemons, including the skin, in a food processor and process until smoothish, but still with some chunky bits. Put the mixture in a small bowl.
Add all the remaining cake ingredients into the food processor and blend until smooth. Lift out the blade and stir in just over half of the lemon pulp. Set the rest aside. Place the mixture into a 25cm/10in cake tin and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until golden-brown and just shrinking from the edge of the tins.
Leave to cool for 5 minutes, then turn the cake out, peel off the baking parchment and leave to finish cooling on a wire rack.
For the cinnamon sauce, bring the goats’ milk, sugar and golden syrup to the boil in a saucepan. Add the cinnamon sticks and stir in the baking powder. Remove the mixture from the heat straight away as the baking powder will make the mixture bubble up.
Whisk the sauce until the bubbling subsides, then return the pan to the heat and cook the mixture over a gentle heat, whisking continuously, until the sauce is simmering. Continue to simmer the sauce over a low heat for 45 minutes, or until thickened and golden-brown in colour. Strain before serving to remove the pieces of cinnamon.
For the poached pears, heat the sugar and 300ml/10fl oz water in a saucepan, until the sugar has dissolved and a syrup forms. Add the star anise, saffron, lemon juice and cinnamon stick and infuse by placing over a gentle heat for 10 minutes. Add the pear wedges to the syrup and poach gently for 10-15 minutes, or until softened.
Bend the silicone mat or lining paper to break the meringue into shards. Remove the meringue shards from the silicone mat using a palette knife and set aside to cool.
Dress the plate with the poached pear, lemon and poppy seed cake, hazelnuts, meringue and ice cream. Finish with the cinnamon sauce.