After a brief break, healthy desserts week is back for two last posts.
I decided to get the new year off to the right start (it seems a bit old already, doesn't it?) by making this pear cake for dessert on New Year's Eve. I was flipping through The Essentials of Italian Cooking when I came across this recipe, in the book called "A Farmwife's Pear Tart" and was intrigued (or as intrigued as I could be as I read out the name to Zach and he started laughing). More pear than batter and the batter itself had no fat or leavening agents. It sounded a bit strange, but as Marcella Hazan has never led me wrong in the past, I thought I'd give it a try.
I chose fairly firm Anjou pears, according to Marcella's instructions, peeled them, cut them in half and used a teaspoon to scoop out the core. Then I sliced each half into about four thick slices lengthwise. I mixed all the other ingredients into a rather thick batter (with the addition of some vanilla extract though I would have preferred to use almond had I had any- pear and almond make such a nice combination) and sent in the pears, giving everything a few good turns with the spatula. I poured, well pour isn't really the right word, since at this point the cake was more like pear slices thinly covered in batter; in any case, I got the batter into the pan and attempted to even it out as best I could, then dotted on about 2 teaspoons of butter (which the recipe said was option but I didn't want my guests to be in diet dessert purgatory) and baked till puffy and lightly golden.
The cake is moist and dense, yet as it's still mostly pear, wasn't too heavy. The fruit hadn't become too soft and still had a pleasant texture which the soft cake contrasted well with. Everyone like it, so this will definitley be on the menu again. Yes, it does have a fairly high amount of sugar, but I think that is to keep the cake moist in the absence of fat. Next time I will probably try cutting down on the sugar and seeing if it still works out.
Italian Pear Cake
Adapted from The Essentials of Italian Cooking
Note: Because of the high moisture content this cake needs to be stored in the fridge if you are not eating it right away.
1/4 C (20ml) milk
1 C (200g) sugar
1 t. (5ml) almond or vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1.5 C (180g) all-purpose flour
2 lb. (900g) firm, but not rock hard, winter pears
2 t butter (optional)
- Preheat oven to 375F. Butter and flour a 9in round pie plate or cake pan.
- Beat together eggs, milk, sugar, extract and salt. Wisk in flour. Set aside.
- Peel pears. Cut in half and scoop out the core. Cut into thick 1/2 (1cm) slices lengthwise. Stir sliced pears into batter.
- Pour pear mixture into the pan and spread out as evenly as you can. Dot with the butter (if using-- it will help the top brown) and bake for about 50 minutes or until puffy and lightly golden. Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then remove to a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.