Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Pear Upside-Down Gingerbread Cake

Due to a roommate moving out, our new wireless router not working, Comcast taking its sweet time to send us a new one, and Christmas messing up the whole postal service, I have not had the use of internet on my computer in a couple of weeks. This isn't a huge problem; I still connect at work and I can borrow a housemate's computer at home if need be. Unfortunately, that does mean that all the pictures I've taken to share with you here are sitting on my laptop's hardrive and not going anywhere any time soon. Another picture-less post is better than nothing, I guess.

Recent deliciousness to come out of my kitchen:

A vegetarian white bean/squash/kale mole (from 101 Cookbooks) cooked in my new beautiful Le Creuset oval dutch oven (thanks Mom and Dad!), served over polenta/corn grits made with queso seco. There's something wonderful about using the right "nationality" of cheese for a given meal.

What do you do with all the extra white beans you've soaked and cooked when your mole recipe only calls for one and half cups? Make white bean hummus! Combined beans, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and some basil/parsley pesto I froze over the summer to make a surprisingly light and delicous dip for carrot sticks, crackers, or pita.

A pear upside-down gingerbread cake, made by combining a pear upside-down cake from Bitten with my mother's gingerbread, recipe below. Baked it in my 10-inch cast iron skillet and the whole thing plopped out perfectly, with a soft spiced cake on the bottom and deliciously caramelized fruit on top. Turned out pretty damn well, if I do say so myself.

Snickerdoodles for Lee, who doesn't like fruit in desserts. I didn't have any cream of tartar, so I subbed baking powder for baking soda and added a splash of lemon juice. The cookies turned out puffier and cakier than I remember, without the deep cracks that usually tell me they're done. But they tasted just the same, and Lee loved them.

Balsamic glazed brussels sprouts, recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I made these a few weeks ago in my cast iron, substituting mushrooms for the pancetta, and absolutely loved them. Since I had more brussels sprouts this weekend, I figured I'd give it another shot, but cut the sprouts in half to cut down on the cooking time and cooked them in a soup pot so as not to dirty another dish. Both bad calls. The cooking liquid permeated the brussels sprouts too much so they overcooked into a slightly-too-mushy state, while overcrowding in the pot didn't let the outsides caramelize right. Do me a favor: make these brussels sprouts as written and smile, because these little guys are like mini cabbage manna from heaven.

Winter squash pasta: Roasted an ambercup squash (my new hands-down favorite) and pureed its pulp with caramelized shallots, garlic, and sage, adding vegetable stock and a bit of butter until it was a saucey consistency. I had some leftover homemade fettucini from a lasagna project the previous weekend, so I cooked that al dente, tossed it with some squash sauce, and topped it with Point Reyes blue cheese and fresh sage. Divine. Shared it with my roommates, who liked it so much they washed all my dishes. Perfect. :)

Pear Upside-Down Gingerbread Cake

3 T plus ½ C butter, divided

¾ C maple syrup or other liquid sweeteners, I used honey for part of mine

¼ C packed brown sugar

3 to 4 firm pears, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

½ C sugar
1 egg
1 C molasses
1 C hot water
2 ½ C flour
½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
½ tsp cloves

Preheat 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 baking pan or iron skillet, 9 or 10 inches wide, and arrange pear slices in overlapping circles on top.

In a large bowl or an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar, add egg, and beat well. Separately, combine molasses and water. Sift together dry ingredients and add alternately with the molasses to the butter-sugar mixture, mixing well. Bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let the cake cool five minutes. 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.


  1. That cakes sounds AMAZING! I'm a sucker for all things gingerbread. I'll have to give it a try!

  2. Please do--it's definitely a keeper recipe.

    And I just realized you did the decor pillows for Regretsy--they're wonderful! Congrats on that.

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