Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The Perfect Pair

I was given a box of Harry and David pears for Christmas. I wanted to make a dessert that would do them justice but that didn’t require a lot of time spent in the kitchen and no trips to the grocery store. I stumbled upon a recipe for gingerbread that had pears mixed in. I really liked that idea. I love the spiciness of gingerbread with that great dark color and old fashioned flavor.  And I had some molasses in the pantry. But just adding my lovely pears seemed like a waste of a beautiful pear so I decided to showcase them by turning the gingerbread into an upside down cake.
I have a well seasoned cast iron skillet and it was perfect for this recipe. This pan has been used so often and for so long it acts like a non stick skillet. If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, you should get one. Look for a well loved one at a garage sale or thrift store. It was probably already broken in for you. If you need to buy one new, just make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions on seasoning it. Make sure you dry it on a low burner on the stove, never with towel. Perfect for upside down cakes, the cast iron skillet is also great for getting a really nice sear on a steak. You can get the pan really hot and not worry about warping. And it is great for anything that needs to go from stove to oven. But I digress.

I added a lot more spice to the recipe I found. Feel free to increase or reduce to your taste. Bosc pears would work nice for this and any other firm pear that is almost ripe but not too soft. You don’t want the pears to disappear when cooking.

Gingerbread Pear Upside Down Cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon cloves
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
3 large eggs
2 pears

2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt.

In a microwave safe container melt 1 stick of butter then add ¼ cup water. Set aside.

Beat together brown sugar and molasses with an electric mixer until combined. Add, beating well. Add flour mixture and mix at low speed until just combined. Add butter mixture and crystallized ginger, beating just until smooth.

In a cast iron skillet, add 2 tablespoons of butter and ¼ cup brown sugar. Cook until the butter is melted.

Peel the pears and cut each pear into 6-8 wedges. Place in cast iron pan on top of brown sugar and butter. Pour cake batter over the pears.  Bake until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, about 28-32 minutes. Let sit 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edge and carefully invert onto a platter. I used a pizza pan covered in foil to flip it on and then the cake was cooled I picked it up by the foil put it on a cake plate and tore the foil away.

If you don’t have a cast iron skilled this will work fine in a round cake pan. Make sure you butter and flour the sides. You could melt the butter and sugar in a separate pan and pour into the cake pan.