Sunday, December 12, 2010

Pear Upside Down Cake with Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise

Pears are one of Ari's favorite fruits and I'm sure this dessert would be too.  There's something comforting about upside-down cakes so this combination seemed appropriate for the season.  My mom's pineapple upside down cake was one of my favorites with the sweet pineapple and maraschino cherries caramelized together and I tried to replicate that flavor, but keep in mind a cake more appropriate for the holiday.  This cake is laced with wonderful spices; almost like a gingerbread and the pears have been caramelized in dark rum and sugar, then, a sprinkling of candied ginger that gives a warming touch to the pears.

I chose to make a vanilla bean creme anglaise, but you could easily do a warm caramel or lemon sauce as an accompaniment and that would be just as nice.  This recipe for Creme Anglaise comes from the NY Times.  I actually cut it out from the food section when we lived in New England and it's been my "go to" creme anglaise because it always comes out perfect. (I particularly love it with a bittersweet chocolate cake!)
Here's Maddie enjoying decorating her first Christmas tree and I thought this would have been a wonderful tree-trimming dessert, although, like her mommy, she prefers chocolate!

Pear Upside Down Cake with Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise

2-3 Pears, peeled, cored and sliced (I used the Bosc variety)
I use a melon-baller to scoop out the core.  Place in a bowl and squeeze 1/2 lemon juice over them.  Toss to coat.

2 T butter
4 T sugar
1/4 dark rum, brandy, or apple juice
1 T. Mini Ginger Chips

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 T. unsulphured molasses
3 large eggs
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cardamon
1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Lightly butter a tartin pan or a 9-inch cake pan.
To caramelize the pears--In a large sauce pan, melt the 2 tablespoons of butter, then, add the sugar.  Lightly brown the pears on both sides and remove to a plate.  Add the rum (brandy or juice) and deglaze the pan.  When the mixture thickens slightly and looks more like syrup, turn off the heat and pour this mixture into the prepared pan.

Arrange the pears in the syrup and set aside.  Sprinkle with the mini ginger chips, if using.

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.
In a KitchenAid, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter until fluffy.  Add the sugars and molasses and beat well.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Don't worry, the mixture will look "curdled".

Sift the dry ingredients (flour, spices, baking soda and salt)  Add to the mixture and beat just until the batter has come together.
Spread the batter over the caramelized pears and use an off-set spatula to smooth it to the edges.
I place my tartin pan on a baking sheet and placed it in the oven.  Set the timer for 10 minutes.  Without opening the oven door, turn temperature down to 325F-degree and continue baking for 25-30 minutes.  Test after 25 minutes, pressing on the top with your finger tips--it should spring back.  Remove from the oven and let cool for 1 hour before turning right-side up.

Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise

1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 Vanilla beans, split and the "bean paste" scraped into the milk
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar

Bring the milk and cream just to a boil with the vanilla beans in it.

Turn off heat and let steep at least 10 minutes.  In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks, gradually adding the sugar.  Continue to whisk until a lighter yellow color.  Ladle some of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture and whisk to combine.  Continue doing this untl almost all the milk mixture has been added, then, remove the vanilla bean pods and pour the remaining milk into the egg mixture.  Return to the stove and cook the mixture over medium heat.  Continue to whisk constantly until the mixture reaches 180F-degrees or when the mixture covers the back of a wooden spoon and you draw your finger across, the line remains.

Immediately remove from the heat, strain the mixture into a glass bowl and place that bowl inside another bowl that is half filled with ice cubes.  Let the mixture cool, stirring occassionally.  When cool, cover with plastic wrap and chill for several hours.  This mixture can be made the day before.
*Save the egg whites--I'll show you my chocolate dipped macaroons later this week!

Invert the cake onto a platter.
To plate the dessert, spoon the creme anglaise onto the plate and then cut a slice of cake.  The combination was perfect and as I would tell Ari or Maddie..."It's like a little pear island in a vanilla  sea!"  Enjoy!

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