Friday, October 17, 2008
Dreams are funny things. Sometimes a dream seems so real that it lingers into the waking day and it isn't until you get a jolt of reality that you think, "I'll take the Ferrari to work today. What? Where's the Ferrari? Did I only dream that I bought that new, red, Ferarri? Doggone it!"
A few times I've had the kind of dream where my busy subconscious invents something so amazing that it will revolutionize the world, eliminate poverty, and auto-process the laundry. I cling to this thought as I wake up, knowing that my genius will fade into the mists if I don't immediately write down this brilliant idea down or tell it to someone. Usually that someone is my husband and as I relate the details of this amazing brain storm, I can see in his face that I'm talking complete jibberish. Dang! And I thought I was going to win the Nobel prize for this one!
One night I half woke with a stupendous recipe idea. I fumbled in the dark for a pencil and wrote it in looping handwriting on the pad of paper I keep at my bedside. When I woke up I looked at it and strangely, it still sounded like a wonderful idea. Take a pineapple upside down cake and instead of pineapple, use pears. And instead of a regular yellow cake, use a gingerbread cake. That sounded like baking genius to me.
Then I found that it was already in a cookbook I owned. Drat! It was such a good idea, but I'll never get to Stockholm for the Nobel awards at this rate. (There is a cooking category for those things, right?)
Then I bought a new magazine, Fine Cooking. For those of you whining about certain cooking magazines that have been less than exciting, get a hold of one of these. It's an amazing magazine that shows techniques, has fabulous recipes, and drool-worthy food photography. I opened up to the section on caramel and, lo, there was a carmelized pear upside-down cake. I could still be brilliant - Carmelized Pear Upside-Down Gingerbread Cake! Yes? Yes!
I followed the magazine's instructions for the pear & caramel part and then added my own recipe for gingerbread. When I'd poured my gingerbread in I suspected that I was in a bit of trouble. My recipe makes a 9 x 9 -inch square of gingerbread, and I was baking in a 9-inch round pan. The difference (if you're nerdy enough, like me, to care) is about 25% by volume.
A smarter person than I, on seeing that the batter came to within 1/2" inch of the rim would have taken some of the batter out and done something else with it. I just don't think that way, so I put it in the oven and hoped for the best. It did bubble over some, but not horrendously, and I had a pan under it, so it didn't produce a charred mess in the bottom of the oven.
Even with bubble over, it was really good. What's not to love about pears, caramel, and gingerbread, all in one incredibly moist slice of deliciousness?
If you want to try this, you can either 1) make it in a 9 x 9 -inch square pan, adding extra pear slices to cover the bottom, 2) use a 10-inch round cake pan, or 3) take some of the batter out and bake it in ramekins to top with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. Even more brilliant yumminess!
Carmelized Pear Upside-Down Gingerbread Cake
For the topping:
2 medium firm-ripe Bosc pears
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup cold water
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
For the cake:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1-1/2 cups flour
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1-1/2 tsp ground ginger
3/4 cup molasses
1 cup hot water
Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 deg. F. (If you plan on cooking the extra batter in ramekins, position the racks in the upper and lower third of the oven.) Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round cake pan (or your choice of other pan). Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and butter the top of the paper.
Peel, core, and cut the pears lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick slices. Arrange the pear slices on the bottom of the pan, overlapping the edges slightly, in a decorative pattern with the pointed ends in the center. If the slices don't cover the entire pan, arrange a few more in the center so the bottom of the pan is entirely covered.
In a heavy 2 quart saucepan, stir the sugar lemon juice, and 1/4 cup cold water. Brush down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush and water to wash away any sugar crystals. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until the mixture starts to turn dark around the edges, about 5 to 8 minutes. Brush down the sides of the pan occasionally. Gently swirl the pan when the sugar syrup starts to darken, to even out the color. Continue to cook until the sugar turns medium amber, about 30 seconds more. This happens quickly, so keep an eye on it.
Immediately remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the 4 pieces of butter, one at a time. until they are completely melted. Pour the hot caramel evenly over the pears.
In a mixing bowl beat the 1/2 cup butter until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the flour, baking soda, salt, and ginger and mix well. Stir in the molasses and hot water until well blended.
Pour the cake batter over the pears in the pan, till the pan is 2/3 full. If you use all the batter, be sure to put a cookie sheet under the cake pan. If you pour the extra batter into ramekins, place them on the cookie sheet.
Bake until a wooden pick comes out clean, about 45-50 minutes, depending on how much batter is in the pan. Keep an eye on the ramekins, if you're making them, and start checking at about 20 minutes.
Place the pan on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake. Put your serving plate upside down over the cake pan and, using hot pads, carefully invert the cake onto the plate. Gently peel off the parchment paper and serve either warm or at room temperature. Be prepared for oohs and aahs.