Bosc pears are in season! Compared to the squat, bright green d’Anjou or yellow Bartlett, these cinnamon brown-gold beauties, elegant and shapely, are the royalty of the pear family.
These fruits make the most delicious and visually stunning desserts; I love them poached in a simple sugar syrup served with vanilla ice cream and warm chocolate sauce– the French dessert poires belle Hélène. For a more dramatic dessert, I’ll poach them in red wine sweetened with sugar and spiced with cinnamon; the ruby-colored fruits are almost too beautiful to eat (but I do, with a bit of mascarpone or whipped cream).
Tonight, I decided to bake an upside-down pear gingerbread– a fall twist on the traditional pineapple cake, which I made for my mommy dinner last fall. I knew it would go well with tonight’s menu: thick pan-fried pork chops in a pan-drippings gravy accompanied by a roasted medley of parsnips, blue fingerlings, Brussels sprouts, carrots and slices of cauliflower. I hadn’t planned on the gravy, but Kurt hinted, “How are you making those?”
This recipe is from a Williams-Sonoma cookbook, Complete Seasonal Cookbook. I bought the book as part of my family’s overall desire to “eat locally.” It’s an uncomplicated dessert to make and doesn’t require any frosting! I simply plate the cake onto its serving platter and let it sit til dessert time. The only change I made to the original recipe is to increase the amount of the cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.
Bosc Pear Upside-down Gingerbread Cake (adapted from W-S)
for the pear base:
- 1/4 c unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3 Bosc pears
- 1/2 c brown sugar
for the gingerbread:
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 1 1/2 c AP flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 c unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 c brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/4 c dark molasses
- 1/3 c boiling water
to make the pear base
Peel the pears (be careful, they are slippery once peeled), then cut them in half length-wise. Using a melon baller (yes, I still have mine from the 80s), remove the core.
Slice the pears thinly and set aside.
In a 9-inch square metal baking pan, melt the 1/4 cup of butter over medium meat. When melted, add the brown sugar.
Stir and cook until sugar has melted– not just dissolved.
Add the pears, turning to coat in the melted sugar/butter.
Cook until pears have softened. It will look like there’s a lot of liquid, but that’s OK. Arrange the pears (or not– I just make sure they’re evenly spread across the bottom of the pan) and set aside pan while you make the gingerbread batter.
for the gingerbread batter
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F).
Measure the spices into a small bowl. (I use a teeny bowl from an old set of W-S glass mixing bowls that Grace gave me decades ago– glad I kept them because the new versions are much thinner and smaller volume).
Measure the flour into a mixing bowl. Mix in the spices and the baking powder. Set the bowl aside.
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Add the egg and the molasses, then mix until well incorporated.
Heat the water (e.g., in the microwave) til boiling. Add about half the flour into the butter/sugar mixture and blend well.
Add about half the boiling water and mix well.
Repeat, taking care not to over mix the batter.
Plop the batter on top of the pears in the pan; you won’t be able to pour the batter, so just go for big dollops over the pears.
Using an angled metal icing spatula, smooth the gingerbread batter over the pears. Some liquid may seep over the batter, but don’t worry.
Bake the gingerbread for 40 to 45 minutes in the preheated oven. If it looks like the gingerbread is over-browning towards the end of the baking time, place a piece of aluminum foil over the top of the pan.
The cake is done when the surface springs back when lightly pressed. Remove the cake from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes. Unmold the cake by placing the serving platter over the cake pan and flipping the cake over. It should release easily.
Serve warm or at room temperature. I prefer this cake to the pineapple version because of the spices and the fact that the cake is not too sweet.
I meant to take a picture of a slice, but when I came back downstairs, the cake WAS ALL GONE!