Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Pain d'Epices aux Poires
I was having dinner with a group of friends recently and they asked what my next column would feature. When I told them, there was general astonishment: "Dessert? You're doing a dessert?! But you don't DO dessert!!"
I told them to just wait. It is an established fact that dessert is not one of my strong points. Mostly, I get my feelings sort of hurt if you're still hungry at dessert time. But this one is so easy!
Back in November, my friends Mimmye and Larry Goode invited me for dinner. Mimmye had a pear upside-down spice cake that she had made for Thanksgiving, and sent some home with me. I loved it; it wasn't overly sweet and sticky.
I asked about the recipe and found that she had used fresh pears that she poached and then made the cake from scratch. And that was the end of it for me, I thought. That was way too much work for a dessert in my own opinion.
But I got to thinking and here's what I did: I got canned pears and used gingerbread mix for the cake. It was easy, quick and delicious.
A couple of tips: the first time I made it I used a store brand of pears. They were of uneven size, several were broken, and the texture was a bit mushy. The next time I used name brand pears with much greater success.
And secondly: I tried both Hodgson Mills organic whole wheat gingerbread and Betty Crocker brand. Both were quite yummy but I preferred the texture of the Hodgson Mills.
Wrapped, this keeps well, and in fact gets better after a day or so. It reminds me very much of the taste and texture of the French spice cake "pain d'épices," so that's what we'll call it. Enjoy!
PAIN D'EPICES AUX POIRES
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
6 or 7 pear halves, from a large can
1 package gingerbread mix, prepared as directed,
but substitute milk for the water called for
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
Whipped cream for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350F. Put the butter and sugar in a deep 9-inch cake pan and put into the oven until the butter is melted. Remove, stir well and spread the sugar out evenly. Put the drained pear halves, rounded side down and pointy end toward the center, in the pan. Use six or seven, depending on how big they are. Don't crowd them.
Prepare the gingerbread mix as directed, using milk instead of water. Stir in the cinnamon and cardamom. Gently spoon over the pears, covering them completely and spreading the batter evenly. Bake as directed.
Let the cake cool on a rack for only five minutes (any longer and it might be hard to remove from the pan). Invert the pan on a cake plate and let cool. Cut into wedges to serve and garnish with whipped cream. Serves 6 to 8.