Thursday, May 3, 2012

Pear and Vanilla Cakes

I love pears. Ripe,fresh juicy pears, with a thin slice of Havarti cheese. Or spread with a creamy French cheese. Or a chocolate pear tart, or pear ice cream, you get it, I love pears. Growing up we had a pear tree in the backyard, the fruit would fall to the ground and become a feast for the hornets and bees. Maybe that is why I didn't care for them growing up , it was too dangerous to try and retrieve the fruit, not worth risking a stinger for ! I'm sorry now that I wasn't brave enough to try and retrieve that wonderful sweet fruit.

 As I've learned later in life, sometimes you have to take a risk to get what you want. That's a lesson that is sometimes difficult to put into practice. Risk taking is frightening, oh not when it comes to pears anymore, but with life in general. You ask yourself, do I ? What's the worst that could happen,sometimes the worst is something uneventful and you go ahead and take your risk. But sometimes the answer to that question is frightening.  It could result in a loss of job, a loss of a friend, a change in a life style and sometimes even a risk to your health. A decision that none of us would take lightly.  Yet for some reason,  in the last few years I have been making decisions knowing "the worst that could happen" could be life changing, and yet I went into my "full steam ahead" mode and made decisions that drastically altered my life.

Some of my less tolerant friends chalked it up to mid life crisis, but those who know me and still love me dearly, know that I have reached a point in my life that if I'm not happy with something I'm not going to sit around and wait for that "something " to change. I am going to change that "something."  And if that means changing jobs,changing myself or changing anything, then I am going to move forward and take the risk and make the change. My life is just beginning to settle into somewhat of a routine after all of the  changes I've made over the last 6 years. From married to divorced to married to the same wonderful man again (thanks for hanging in there sweetie); from 911 police dispatcher to flight attendant to pastry chef to  travel company to cruise ship company to work from home. I'm happy with the job I have now, I love working from home , it feels like a good fit and I've passed my family's 6 month "whew she didn't quit" time line !  And I'm so happy and so grateful that the man I fell in love with in college stuck by me and took a second chance with me. Now the next big challenge will be where to retire. Do we stay put ? Belize ?  Costa Rica ? Oregon ? Or pack up everything and take a year long cross country trip ? Fingers crossed that will be the last life changing experience ( I can hear my family laughing now ) But if it's not , well isn't life just an adventure after all ?

Back to these wonderful pears, I saw an Australian Pear advertisement in a recent issue of Donna Hay magazine with a sweet photo of a pear and vanilla cake. I knew I immediately wanted to try it.  While the recipe stated the yield was 12 mine was 6.  I'm guessing from their photo that they used smaller pears and smaller deeper liners than the ones I had access to. Doesn't matter, my cakes turned out perfect and very delicious. This makes a nice light dessert with a glass of wine. And they look so pretty .

Pear and Vanilla Cakes
Adapted from Australian Pear Council (recipe appeared in an ad in Donna Hay Magazine)
Yield-6 using 3" wide by 1 3/4" deep baking liners
For the Pears:
6 Bosc pears, peeled and cored with stem left attached
8 cups of water
1 vanilla bean,split and seeds scraped
2 2/3 cup super fine sugar (You can pulse regular sugar until it reaches a super-fine, but not powdery consistency if you can't find super fine sugar)

For the vanilla cake:
4 1/2 oz unsalted butter,softened
2/3 cup super fine sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour,sifted with the baking powder and salt below
1/2 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
Powdered sugar for dusting

Place the water,vanilla bean and seeds and the 2 2/3 cup sugar in a saucepan over low heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Add the pears. Cover the pears with a round of non- stick baking paper or parchment paper and then cover the pot with a lid. Cook for 25-30 minutes or until the pears are tender.  Drain on an absorbent paper towel,set aside and allow pears to cool. (You can save the pear/vanilla flavored syrup in a bottle or jar in the refrigerator for up to a month). 

 Preheat the oven to 325F.

Place the butter and remaining sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 8-10 minutes or until pale and creamy.  Gradually add the eggs one at time  and then the  vanilla extract,beating well after each addition.

Fold in 1/3 of the flour,then 1/2 of the milk,then another 1/3 of the flour and the remaining milk,finishing with the final 1/3 of the flour. 

 Spoon the cake batter into the liners,  just slightly under 3/4 full.

Slice off about 1 inch from the base of the pear,chop those slices into small pieces that you can stuff into the cored out portion of the pear (that stops the cake batter from filling in the core of the pear).

Carefully take each pear and push it into the center of the liner with the cake batter-you want the cake batter to push up along the outside of the pear. 

 Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the pears are tender when tested with a skewer and a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the cake. The cake bakes up very pale-it won't brown,unless you over bake and burn it. 

Remove from oven and cool completely before dusting with powdered sugar.


mireia badia said...

Your love is a real one, how great you married again, the recipe looks really good too!!

Cristina said...

I absolutely love these pear and vanilla cakes. They'r so elegant and anything with fruit has my vote. Looking forward to making these cakelets. Mmmm...did you mention pears with Havarti? Yummm - will have to try that combo.

Mentioning Donna Hay magazine, I wish it was more affordable here in the States to subscribe. I got to see my first issue about a month ago and I'm hooked! What a gorgeous magazine!! :)

Sandy, I'm happy things are looking up for you and I very much enjoyed reading about and can relate re taking risks and chances. We have so much in common. Glad you're back online again.

Have a lovely weekend!

Seattle Pastry Girl said...

@Mireia,I am very blessed to be back with him .
@Cristina, I tweeted you a link for a digital version of Donna Hay thru Zinio Reader-it's just as gorgeous as the paper issue and we save a few trees,plus the price is much better ! If you make it up to Seattle let me know and we will definitely get together.