Ever since my Thanksgiving issue of Bon Appetit showed up in the mail, I’ve been excited. I pawed through it, dog-earring pages, looking forward to that epic meal that happens once a year.
I love Thanksgiving.
So last week when one of my girlfriends wanted to have a night of cooking, I was excited to try out one of the dessert recipes suggested for Thanksgiving. We made the Pear Upside Down Cake and it was fabulous.
Not only beautiful, but insanely delicious. This thing certainly passed the test and will be included on the Thanksgiving menu. In fact, I might have to make two so there are plenty of leftovers.
I liked this cake so much because it isn’t terribly sweet. It has a delicate, moist crumble to it and the small amount of cornmeal gives it a slightly grainy texture that complements the natural graininess of the pears. The caramel and the juices released from the pears are a delightful combo that soaks through the cake, making it taste just fabulous. I highly recommend making this dessert part of your Thanksgiving dinner, or for that matter, any dinner.
The only downside was there were a lot of steps, but it wasn’t terribly hard. Just more time consuming than I had originally invisioned. I also don’t have a cake pan, so we made it in a pie plate, which worked just fine and aesthetically, I liked the domed sides just as much as I think I would have liked vertical sides.
Bon Appetit’s Pear Upside Down Cake
• 9 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, divided, plus more
• 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
• 3 tablespoons coarse yellow cornmeal or polenta
• 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1 cup sugar, divided
• 2 medium pears-about 1 pound (although I couldn’t fit two whole pears in the pan)
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 2 large eggs, separated
• 1/2 cup whole milk
• Whipped cream or caramel gelato or vanilla ice cream (optional)
An 8″-diameter round cake pan with 2″-high sides or a pie plate
• Preheat oven to 350°. Butter pan; line bottom with a parchment-paper round. Whisk four, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Stir 1/4 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium-high. Boil syrup without stirring, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush, until sugar turns dark amber, 8–10 minutes. Remove pan from heat; add 1 tablespoon butter (caramel will bubble vigorously) and whisk until smooth. Pour caramel into prepared cake pan and swirl to coat bottom.
• Peel, halve, and core the pears. Place flat on a work surface and cut lengthwise into 1/8″-thick slices. Layer slices over caramel, flat side down, overlapping as needed.
• Mix remaining 3/4 cup sugar, 8 tablespoon butter, and vanilla in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add yolks one at a time, beating to blend between additions and occassionally scraping bowl. Beat in flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with milk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
• Using clean, dry beaters, beat egg whites on low speed in a medium bowl until frothy. Increase the speed to medium and continue to beat until whites form soft peaks. Fold about 1/4 of the whites into cake batter. Add in remaining whites; gently fold just to blend. Pour batter over pears in pan; smooth top.
• Bake cake, rotating pan halfway through, until top is golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out with a few small moist crumbs attached, about 1 hour. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Run a thin knife around the inside of pan to release cake. DO AHEAD:Can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.
• Invert cake onto a plate; remove parchment paper. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or caramel gelato, if desired. (I also had a piece the other night with Ben and Jerry’s Vanilla, Caramel, Chocolate swirl and thought I had died and gone to heaven.)