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
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
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.