Portuguese Rocha pear,apricot and polenta shortcake

Thin slices of re-hydrated Rocha pear lie upon a halved shortcake, nestling alongside some poached fresh pear and re-hydrated apricot left over from breakfast. The other shortcake half covers that, and a sticky syrup of the reduced poaching liquid brings it all together.
Something homely for a Sunday afternoon, this dessert is a stack of layered flavours and textures, but its components are all surprisingly light. It’s not a wooly dense cake, it’s more camel hair and cashmere.The golden colours bring Easter to mind too. Any dried fruit would work beautifully here; apricots, pears, apples or even peaches.Another thought on the filling, Portuguese quince jam (marmelada) -  why not?
Dried apricots are a different breed altogether. When soaked, they hydrate perfectly, retaining their vibrant colour. More importantly, the flavour shines through, no matter what you're cooking.
The drying process intensifies the very essence of the fruit, giving whatever you are making a sharper and deeper flavour.They are very easy to work with and when cooked after soaking, the dried fruit actually pulps. Particularly useful when you are making jam or sauce, a sponge pudding or a shortcake like this.
Portuguese Rocha pear, apricot and polenta shortcake
makes 16 pieces
300g mixture of dried Rocha pears, dried apricots
and 2 small under ripe fresh Rocha pears peeled cored and sliced thinly
60g caster sugar
150g Polenta(papa de milho)
225g plain flour
3/4teaspoon baking powder
150g caster sugar
150g unsalted butter softened
1 egg lightly beaten

To cook the fruits:pour enough boiling water over the pears and apricots just to cover them and leave to soak for several hours-preferably overnight. Place the pears and apricots with their soaking water and the extra 2 fresh pears peeled and cored, into a small saucepan,add the sugar and bring to a simmer.Cook the fruits until they are tender and the cooking liquid has reduced to a syrup. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

To make the shortbread:lightly grease and flour a 25cm long x 18cm wide x 5cm deep baking dish and line with baking paper.Preheat the oven to 180C. Place the polenta,flour,baking powder and sugar in a medium sized bowl and stir to combine thoroughly. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs then add the egg.Mix together until the mixture forms a dough.Divide the mixture in half.Press one half evenly over the bottom of the prepared dish.Lay the fruits in a single layer over the shortcake base then press the remaining dough over the top.Bake the shortcake for 55 minutes or until deep golden brown.Allow to cool in the dish before cutting into sixteen slices.


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