Sunday, November 22, 2009

Upside-Down Pear Chocolate Cake

So there's this book, it's called Rustic Fruit Desserts. It was featured in Gourmet, it's garnered rave reviews on Amazon. When I saw it at my local library I grabbed it like nobody's business. It's pretty inspiring, really lovely photos, a cornucopia of fruit desserts. The book is divided in 4 sections, spring, summer, fall winter. It had me wishing for summer cherries and berries, but never the less the winter/fall desserts look pretty luscious too.
I made the Upside-Down Pear Chocolate Cake.*
First you make a caramel, which you pour into a buttered pan. Once the caramel has hardened you layer on slices of pear. Over the pears you pour silky chocolate cake batter.
My cake was VERY wet, and though I baked it for an extra five minutes the center still wasn't completely cooked. I didn't really mind this though because the undercooked part took on an almost mouse-like quality.
For whatever reason the cake took on a complex, rummy flavor, which I found pretty delicious.
And here's the killer thing. it has a 1/2 stick of butter. HALF A STICK. TOTAL.
I am not even kidding.

Upside-Down Pear Chocolate Cake
from Rustic Fruit Desserts by Schreiber and Richardson

Fruit Topping:
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
3 firm but ripe pear, peeled, cored and each cut into 12 slices (about 1 pound)

Butter a 9-inch baking pan (I used a spring form pan, which worked very well).
To make the fruit topping, put the sugar and water in a heavy saucepan (one with a tight-fitting lid) and stir until the sugar dissolves. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, then cover and cook for 2 minutes. (Covering in this way allows steam to wash down the sides of pan, which prevents sugar crystals from forming.) Uncover the saucepan and continue to boil the sugar, gently and slowly swirling the pan as needed to cook the caramel evenly, until it becomes a dark amber color. Occasionally wash down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Carefully pour the caramel into the prepared pan and allow it to harden. The pan will be very hot from the sugar, so take care in moving it if you need to. Fan the pear slices on top of the caramel in circle around the perimeter, filling in the center with remaining slices.
Preheat the oven to 350 F.

1/4 cup unsalted butter
4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk
To make the cake, place the putter and chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat and melt, stirring occasionally. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt together in a bowl of a stand mixer and add the sugar. Transfer the melted chocolate to a mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer and add sugar. Using a a handheld mixer with beaters or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture in three additions alternating with the milk in two additions, beginning and ending with the flour and scraping down the dies of the bowl occasionally.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the middle of the oven for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the cake bounces back slightly when touched. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then invert the cake onto a plate, leaving the pan on top of the cake for 5 minutes before you remove it. Serve the cake warm topped with ice cream of whipped cream. Wrapped in plastic wrap it will keep for up to 3 days at room temperature.

*Please make this. This cake dressy enough for a sophisticated dinner but informal enough to cut slices while looking for "real food" in the refrigerator.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Lemon Bars

There are certain things I associate with certain people. When I think of my mom I think of irises, and white handmade pottery and lemon bars. My mom loves lemon bars. 

Even more so, I have a strong emotional tie to lemon bars. One of my friends was in the hospital, and we bought her some lemon bars, she was very, very ill and never really ate food, only picked at it. I remember watching her pick at the lemon bar, and wanting her to just EAT IT ALREADY. 

Perhaps it's surprising, considering how strongly I feel about lemon bars, that I'd never made them until a few weeks ago, but life works in funny ways, and I finally found the perfect recipe. The one that sang to me. 
The one that seemed just right. 

Lemon Bars on Brown Butter Shortbread
from Tartine


1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsalted butter
pine nuts (optional) 1/2 cup


1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup + 2 tbsp lemon juice
grated zest of 1 lemon
6 large whole eggs
1 large egg yolk
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 9x13 inch baking pan. 

To make crust, sift the confectioners' sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the flour and stir to mix. Add the butter and pine nuts (if using) and beat on low speed until a smooth dough forms. 
Transfer the dough to the prepared pan and press evenly into the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of the pan. It should be about 1/4 inch thick. To help even out the crust use the flat bottom of any type of cup, pressing down firmly. Line the crust with parchment paper and fill with pie weights. Bake the crust until it colors evenly to a deep golden brown, 25 to 35 minutes. Rotate pan 180 degrees if the crust appears to baking unevenly. 

While crust is baking, make the filling: Sift the flour into a mixing bowl. Add sugar and whisk until blended. Add the lemon juice and zest and stir to dissolve the sugar. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the whole eggs and egg yolk with the salt. Add the eggs to the lemon mixture and whisk until mixed. 

When the crust is ready, pull out the oven rack holding the crust and pour the filling directly into the hot pan. (It's easiest to pour the custard into the pan if the pan is in the oven.) If the crust has come out of the oven and cooled before you have finished making the filling, put it back in for a few minutes so that it is hot when the custard is poured into it. Reduce oven temperature to 300 F and bake just until the center of the custard is no longer wobbly, 30 to 40 minutes. 

Let cool completely on a wire rack, then cover and chill well before cutting. using a sharp knife, cut into 12 squares, or as desired. If you like, dust the tops of the squares with confectioners' sugar. They will keep in an airtight container or well covered in the baking dish in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. 

Monday, November 2, 2009

Random Failures

My official new goal is to ACTUALLY post. Yeah, I know, remarkable. 
I've had some disappointing food failures lately, the most disgusting involving butterscotch chips and cashews. 
The official new policy is to never, ever do anything with butterscotch chips AGAIN. 
Also I made a cauliflower, this one:
which is supposed to be cauliflower for non-cauliflower eaters. It wasn't too bad. Not my favorite, but not bad either. Then my Dad smelled it, just smelled it and he started yelling about how much he loathed it and opened all the doors and windows to get rid of "The Smell" because apparently it was making him gag. 
Yep. I know. 

Right now I'm craving savory tarts, such as quiche, also doughnuts. Also Payday candy bars. And nuts. Lots of cashews and stuff. And crisp apples. And french toast. 

I've been a bit sick for the past two days as well as insanely busy and also very impatient with the world, but I'm on this folks. This whole "Blog Thing" is going to happen.