Pear Upside-Down Cake

Pear Upside Down CakeI was really craving a homemade dessert. Cake, ideally. Something with a seasonal flavor, but definitely not one of my standby apple or pumpkin-flavored sweets. A more unique choice.

Luckily I came across a newish issue of Bon Appetit in the house that had just the thing: a luxurious walnut-and-olive-oil-based cake topped with pears resting in a caramel-y pomegranate syrup. Perfect! Pears aren’t as ubiquitous at my house as, say, bananas are, but they are easy enough to find at the market. Plus I feel like pears are often underrated as a dessert. This was definitely going in the right direction as far as uniqueness.

The recipe begins with making a syrup that lines the base of the pan, AKA cooled caramel that eventually ends up being the top of the cake once the pan is turned rightside up. No problems there. It consists of pomegranate syrup and orange juice that is combined with sugar and butter then reduced. Soon after the pears are added to the pan in order to soften the fruit and release some juice. They seemed to need a little more cooking time than listed in the recipe, but this was easily remedied. After a second round of syrup reduction I was able to pour the caramel over the pears and add them to the only spot in my freezer available for the cooling period. On to the cake portion!

The cake batter is created by using both a food processor and an upright mixer.  It seems excessive at first but makes sense: first of all, the processor is needed to grind the walnuts into a flour, and secondly, there is very little chance of beating 4 eggs without a mixer. So in the end I had a lot of dishes to do, but no biggie- this is what I get for making something besides brownies!

The olive oil/egg/ground walnut/all-purpose flour batter is then poured over the cooling-in-the-freezer pear/caramel mix and ready for the oven. The baking times listed seemed too short in my opinion. I definitely had to go past the suggested 50-60 minutes when the middle seemed raw after an hour. A few minutes later and all was ready for cooling.

I thought the end result was lovely, if not slightly misrepresented in the title. The idea that this is a “spiced” cake is going a bit too far, in my opinion. The bosc pears match wonderfully with the tartness of the caramel syrup. The cake itself is rich and slightly nutty, a great base element for the sweet-yet-tart top. Why so little spice flavor?  The recipe calls for a 1/4 tsp of cardamom, which to me wasn’t enough to register in the final baked product. So overall a spice fail, but really the cake is too beautiful to complain too much.

Pear Upside Down Cake

Recipe Credit: Bon Appetit

Kitchen Mess: 3 out of 4 starts. Not too terrible considering the steps involved. I feel the need to warn everyone that this contains a bunch of sticky ingredients.

Recommended For: Upside Down Cake Enthusiasts, People Looking for Recipes that Use up Pomegranate Syrup, Something to do with Extra Bosc Pears.

Not Recommended For: Anyone looking for a traditional spiced cake.

Blueberry Pecan Crunch Pie

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Success.

After being away for 3 weekends in a row, it was time to settle in at home and make something comforting. Pie is always at the top of the comfort list, but what kind? I tend to be indecisive about what flavor to make, especially since I try to limit pie baking to once every 6-8 weeks or so in an attempt to try and not eat a whole pie every week. (Tough and painful choices, I know.)  After much hand-wringing, blueberry ended up at the top of the list, mainly because I couldn’t remember the last time I had baked one.

Since it had been so long since I made a blueberry version, I ended up easily finding a recipe that I hadn’t used before: a pecan crunch pie from a 2001 Food and Wine compilation. The ingredients are straightforward and classic but with some embellishments like a nutty crumble topping (always yum) and toasted pound cake crumbs sprinkled on the par-baked crust.

This recipe is overall a strong one. The blueberry flavor is definitely enhanced with the addition of both lemon and ginger, but there’s nothing overpowering about either piece. The tartness of the blueberries was balanced with the sugar level. The pound cake crumb barrier kept the crust from getting soggy, which I call a huge success in the quality of the final product.

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Deep dark fruit drips.

What would I tweak? Two things. First of all, the pie crust recipe calls for a food processor, which in my opinion makes it easy to overmix the crust. I felt that it was competent but slightly tough. Next time I would stick to my own crust recipe without the machine.

The other piece I would tweak is the topping. The pecans are great, but perhaps it would be better to use brown sugar rather than granulated in this part of the recipe.

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Tomorrow, pie for breakfast.

Recipe Credit: Food and Wine

Kitchen Mess: 2 out of 4 stars. Depends on how messy you are with rolling out the dough.

Recommended for: A bumper crop of berries, potlucks and picnics, summer or when you’re missing summer

Not Recommended for: Hmm….I would say this could be universally adored unless you have a nut allergy.