Thursday, May 23, 2013

Honey-Glazed Pear Upside-Down Cake

My friend and I are training for the Women's Half Marathon in June and once in a while we are able to meet up at Recreation Drive and do our long runs which for me, is anything over 6 miles.  We tend to chat...a lot and our conversation topics range from food and recipes to relationships, travel and decorating.  Lest you think this banter is frivolous, it was on one of those runs that she told me about the Melissa Clark books which has lead me to love cooking and baking even more than I did before.  

I noticed in running around my neighborhood and by the lake that there are a disproportionate amount of women running in groups chatting away while men are either running alone or in silence next to their male running or biking buddy.  Actually, this is more of a life observation; women talk and figure things out, men keep it all inside.  I know, not a news flash, but still an interesting contrast to observe.

Honey-Glazed Pear Upside-Down Cake
Adapted from "In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite", by Melissa Clark
Yield: 6 to 8 Servings

1/4 cup chestnut or other intense honey
4 small of 3 large pears, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and cored (recipe calls for Bosc pears but I only had regular pears, so that is what I used)
3 fresh thyme sprigs (slide the leaves off the stems)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter (1 stick), melted and cooled
1/4 cup chopped or sliced raw, unsalted almonds

1.  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  In a 9-inch skillet (not-nonstick), simmer the honey until it begins to reduce, caramelize and darken in color, 6 to 10 minutes.  (Do not let the honey burn.  If it starts to smell burned, turn off the heat.)
2.  Arrange the pears, close together and cut side down, in a circular pattern in the pan (the stem ends should point toward the center).  Simmer over medium heat, turning from one cut side to the other, until they turn golden, about 10 minutes.  (Don't do what I did and throw all the pears in the pan at once without arranging.  It took me longer to get them to a golden color and the finished product did not look as pretty.)
3.  Flip the pears over to their curved side and scatter with the thyme leaves.  Transfer the pan to the oven and roast, uncovered, until very tender, about 25 minutes.
4.  Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and lemon zest.  Whisk in the eggs and vanilla.  Fold in the flour and salt; stir in 1/2 cup melted butter.
5.  When the pears are soft, remove the skillet from the oven and brush the edges with the remaining 1 tablespoon melted butter.  Pour the batter on top of the roasted pears and scatter the almonds over the batter.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25-30 minutes.  Let the cake cool for 30 minutes in the pan.  Run a rubber scraper along the edges of the pan to loosen the cake; carefully invert the cake onto a serving platter.  Serve warm or cooled.*

*This cake ages well.  Two days later the flavors are even more vibrant and delicious.

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