Monday, November 16, 2009

Pear Upside Down Cake

When I saw this Mark Bittman recipe for Pear Upside Down Cake in last week's New York Times, I knew I had to try it even though the other resident of my home dislikes (hates?) pears. Bittman wrote that he meant this dessert to be a cross between tarte tatin and upside-down cake, which it is, though, for me, it's simply a more fancy, more adult, more complex version of the traditional (and my dad's personal favorite) pineapple upside down cake in all its caramelized sweetness.

Surprisingly, it got raves from my pear-hating husband, who compared it's moist sweetness to tres leches cake, and our bridge buddies. It's easy enough to make on a weeknight if you have some time to spare and would be perfect to serve for brunch as well as dessert. And speaking of, it would be a very good substitute for pie at your Thanksgiving table for any crust-phobic amongst you. Make sure to use the best pears and highest quality maple syrup you can get your hands on. Happy fall baking!

Maple Pear Upside Down Cake

Time: About 90 minutes

11 tablespoons butter

3/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

3 medium sized pears (I used a mix of bartlett and bosc) peeled, cored and thinly sliced

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk (skim is fine)

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a small pan over medium heat; add maple syrup and brown sugar and cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and cook for another 2 minutes; remove from heat and set aside. When mixture has cooled a bit, pour it into a 9-inch baking pan and arrange pear slices in an overlapping circle on top (a double layer of pears is fine!)

2. In a mixer, beat remaining 8 tablespoons butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs, one egg at a time, continuing to mix until smooth. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.

3. Add flour mixture to butter mixture in three batches, alternating with milk; do not overmix. Carefully spread batter over pears, using a spatula to make sure it is evenly distributed. Bake until top of cake is golden brown and edges begin to pull away from sides of pan, about 45 to 50 minutes; a toothpick inserted into center should come out clean. Let cake cool for 5 minutes.

4. Run a knife around edge of pan; put a plate on top of cake and carefully flip it so plate is on bottom and pan is on top. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings.

Pear in the raw

Use a melon baller for quick and easy core removal

Mmmmm browny sugary

Pear slices pinwheeled

Not so pretty right side up

Quite nice upside down!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Rules for Restaurant Servers

There's an interesting what not to do for waitstaff on the New York Times' "You're the Boss" blog.

As a lover of New York City tap water and also of saving a few $$, my favorite has to be #6 Do not lead the witness with, “Bottled water or just tap?” Both are fine. Remain neutral.