Pear, Maple and Nutmeg Cornmeal Cake + Kitchen Tools #1

Pear, Maple and Nutmeg Cornmeal Cake all dressed up with a dollop of vanilla Greek yogurt is an easy, alternate idea for Holiday celebrations that will be much appreciated by those looking for something naturally sweet without using a lot of granulated sugar. Rich, almost caramelized, pears with nutmeg then generously drizzled with maple syrup while hot out of the oven is good for a few days warm or cold.

I like how the maple syrup pools in the pear.

There is nothing quite like freshly grated nutmeg. Do you have one of these graters, or a nutmeg grinder? They are inexpensive and will become one of your most used kitchen tools if you, like me, find the jarred ground nutmeg somewhat pale in aroma and flavor. Whole nutmeg grated is a much used spice at our house. Wouter adds it to his meatballs and always in his wonderful mashed potatoes. Just a hint is often all that is needed. This cake recipe calls for a generous amount and is just the thing paired with real maple syrup.

Notice how I grated the nutmeg onto a sheet of parchment paper? Parchment is another “kitchen tool” that I use every day for measuring flour onto, lining cake pans or sheet pans so I don’t have to scrub them so much….small pieces are good for using like this instead of another dish to wash! Can you tell washing dishes is not my favorite thing?

Melon ballers in various sizes are great for coring apples and pears, making melon balls of course….or butter balls.  It was so easy to core the pears to create a bowl to hold all that tasty maple syrup using this small melon baller.

See that wee paring knife? It is my go-to knife for so many jobs in the kitchen…I finally bought a good one that has a thin blade that sharpens well. It was not the cheapest nor the costliest, but it fits my hand just perfect and came from E. Dehillerin in Paris. I picked it up at our local Willliams-Sonoma.

So that’s four kitchen tools….nutmeg grater or grinder, parchment paper, melon baller and paring knife….basics…not trendy…forever useful, especially for these days of seasonal baking.

Warm, aromatic cake drizzled with Vanilla flavored Greek Yogurt. Yum.

Pear, Maple and Nutmeg Cornmeal Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 stick butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 4 ripe, but firm pears, halved, cored and peeled
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, divided
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup 2 percent milk
  • 1/2 cup real maple syrup, divided + extra for serving
  • 2 large eggs, lightly whisked
  • 2 cups vanilla greek yogurt, whipped for serving

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush a 9″ round x 2″ deep cake pan with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of the melted butter to a cast iron or other heavy skillet. Set over medium heat. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar over the butter.
  3. Place pear halves in a circle in the bottom of the pan, cut side up. Sprinkle cut sides with 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg. Cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Turn pears over with cut side down. Sprinkle with another 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg. Cook pears until most of the liquid has evaporated and cut sides are beginning to lightly caramelize, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
  5. Place pears, cut sides down, in the prepared 9″ round cake pan.
  6. Quickly whisk together remaining 1/4 ground nutmeg, flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  7. Whisk in milk, 1/4 cup maple syrup, eggs and remaining melted butter just until smooth. Pour mixture over pears and bake until golden brown, for about 20-25 minutes. Test with a wooden pick inserted into the center of the cake. Remove from oven and using a skewer make a few random holes over the entire cake surface. Drizzle with remaining 1/4 cup maple syrup. Let cake cool on a wire rack while syrup soaks in for about 15 minutes. Carefully invert onto a serving plate.
  8. Cut cake into 8 wedges with each person getting a pear half, drizzle with another bit of maple syrup and add a dollop of vanilla greek yogurt.  (This cake keeps well for a few days and is deliciously seasoonal either warm or cold.)

(This recipe is adapted from a recipe by Ruth Cousineau from Gourmet Magazine February 2008 that I clipped and saved. I tweaked a few things to make it easier to make. Thanks Ruth for the inspiration.)

Teresa Blackburn    http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com   www.foodonfifth.com

 

” November Pear-Pluot Tart” (When the going gets tough, the tough start baking!)

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In my house when the going gets a bit tough, I have an overwhelming urge to bake and bake and bake…the next few posts might be baked goods.

Lovely firm pears…juicy pluots…maple syrup and spelt flour all layered, sugared and baked in a short bread crust. Hello November….Hello Thanksgiving in Nashville, Tennessee….Hello?

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Below are step-by-steps….just in case….

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…..you want to make your own…right now…today..don’t you? It’s as Easy As This! Baking will make you feel better….I promise.

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Hello delicious.

November Pear-Pluot Tart

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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Ingredients for Crust:

  • 2 cups spelt flour
  • 1 stick cold butter cut into pieces
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean powder
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon ice cole water, if needed

Ingredients for Filling:

  • 2 tablespoons red currant jelly, melted to brush on crust
  • 3 ripe, but firm pears, cored, peeled and thickly sliced
  • 3 pluots or plums, cored and thickly sliced (or small tart apples)
  • 1/2 cup demerara or other dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter cut into pieces
  • Grainy raw sugar to sprinkle over top of tart after baking

Directions:

  1. Place spelt flour in a food processor along with the butter pieces and vanilla bean powder. Process until mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Add maple syrup and egg yolk. Process until a dough forms. (Add ice water if needed)  Remove dough from food processor and form into a flatten disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.
  2. Roll dough out onto a lightly floured surface into a large round. Fit into a 9 inch springform pan, folding extra dough to inside to form a thicker crust all around. Prick the bottom of the crust and chill for 30 minutes while you prepare the filling.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  4. When filling ingredients are ready remove tart shell from the refrigerator and spread the bottom with the melted red currant jelly.
  5. Fill tart shell with fruit, and then sprinkle the demerara sugar over the fruit. Top with butter pieces.. Bake until fruit is fork tender, not mushy, about 40 minutes. Fruit will begin to caramelize just a bit. Remove from oven and dust with grainy raw sugar. Serve warm or at room temperature with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Notes: You can make this tart with all pears or pears and apples as well. Great Holiday dessert.

Teresa Blackburn     http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com

Fresh Cranberry Upside-Down Cake – A quick & easy Bake and Take Gift

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For years…childhood years…I thought cranberries only came in a can with jelly. It never occurred to me that somewhere far, far away the origins of this jellied staple of Holiday dinners grew on bushes in bogs.

In adulthood I discovered the wonderfulness of whole fresh cranberries and I have never looked back. My love of all-things-cranberry…the color, the tartness that is transformed with a bit or sugar or molasses, the texture when you bite into one…seems to take over my kitchen every holiday season.

This is one of the most tender cake I have ever made. The sweet-tart  cranberry-sugar topping is a modern, seasonal riff on the classic upside-down cake.

Cake pan is batter ready……

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…baked and cooling ready to be…..

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…turned upside-down. Love the color and texture and oh my so good.

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If you plan to bake and take a dessert to a dinner or gathering this December and you have limited time this would be the one to bake!

My Cranberry Orange Simple Syrup recipe is another you might like to try for gifting or just having on hand for quick cocktails.  More recently I posted my really easy recipe for Cranberry-Pomegranate Cordial.

Have a Happy Holiday. Eat Well, Share and give what you can.

Fresh Cranberry Upside-Down Cake

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: very easy
  • Print

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Ingredients:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter softened + extra for grease cake pan
  • 1/2 cup white sugar mixed with 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups fresh whole cranberries (can use fresh frozen & thawed)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsps baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • Powdered sugar optional or a Vanilla Ice Cream

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease the sides and bottom of an 8 inch cake pan with 1 tbsp of butter.
  3. Sprinkle the bottom of the cake pan with the white sugar-cinnamon mixture.
  4. Pour fresh whole cranberries into the cake pan. Gently shake pan to “settle” the cranberries.
  5. Using an electric mixer cream the softened stick of butter with the 1/2 cup brown sugar. Add in the egg & vanilla extract and beat until well blended.
  6. In a small bowl whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together.
  7. Turn mixer to low and alternately add the flour mixture and the buttermilk and beat just until combined. Scrape down mixing bowl as needed.
  8. Scrape batter over the cranberries in the cake pan and smooth top. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Remove cake pan to a cooling rack for about 15 minutes.
  9. Turn cake out onto a serving plate or cake stand. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen if need be. Serve warm or at room temperature with or without a dusting of powdered sugar or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

This cake recipe is based on one I saved from a Martha Stewart Magazine a few years ago. It is a very moist cake as the sugar cinnamon mixture and the cranberries caramelize while baking. When the cake is turned upside down gravity takes over and the result is a tender moist cake.

Teresa Blackburn      http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com

A Winter Dessert, Deep Dark Chocolate Almond Pear Tart

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The light goes early this late November. I catch the last few minutes as my tart comes out of the oven. Dark, deeper colors as the sun sets casting a winter mood.

Deep dark chocolate….ground almonds…6 ripe, yet firm fall pears. Strong and delicate flavors melded to become something magical in the waning light.

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Small Seckel Pears, sometimes called “sugar pears” due to their sweetness. are the perfect fit for this recipe. Pears are very abundant in markets these days with a great variety on offer.

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Carefully cored and peeled,  I used the stems to add a bit of style.  I love the way they look when baked on top of each little pear.

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Before and after baking….

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…up close, ready to slice and eat.

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Yum and yum.

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A Winter Dessert, Deep, Dark Chocolate Almond Pear Tart

  • Servings: 6
  • Print

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Ingredients:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened + extra for brushing on tart pan
  • 6 firm, yet ripe Seckel Pears, cored, peeled, saving stems
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup almonds, whole or slivered
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp lemons zest
  • powdered sugar/confectioner’s sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Brush tart pan sides and bottom with softened butter.
  3. Toss prepped pears with the lemon juice
  4. Process sugar and almonds in a food processor until finely ground. Add butter, eggs, cocoa powder, vanilla and almond extracts, salt and zest until combined into a thick batter. Scrape batter into the tart pan and spread out evenly.
  5. Gently press pears into the batter around the edge of the pan evenly spaced. Insert the stems down into the pears. Place pan on a rimmed baking sheet.
  6. Bake tart until puffy, for about 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the batter comes out with a few wet crumbs attached. Take care to not overbake. Cool tart on a wire rack.
  7. Serve dusted with powdered sugar if desired.

“Fruitcakes / Cakes-with-Fruit…a Holiday Quest”

 I opened the local paper this week to the food section and was….well…what was I? Hmmmm……not horrified exactly, and not fearful, yet I felt a certain unease somewhere in the primal brain as my eyes fell on a bigger-than-most newspaper image of just the sort of fruitcake that gives cakes-with-fruit a bad name  (see newspaper image at top in the photo below). The image was complete with a sticky sweet looking glaze, lots of bright green & red candied fruit that had not been real fruit for a long, long time….Maybe some pieces of translucent pale yellow pineapple…but wait are those nuts? Yes, yes a few nuts…I recognized the nuts. I felt a little better.

newspaper image of fruitcake

 This fruitcake image landed in my cerebral cortex almost at the same time that I was experimenting with “fruitcakes or cakes-with-fruit” recipes.

For some time now I have been convinced it is possible to make a cake with nuts and dried fruit for the Holidays that is appealing …that is dense, not too sweet, that is chock full of good dried fruits for moistness, nuts for a bit of crunch. I want a “fruitcake” that is good, simple, sliced and toasted, with a cup of coffee or tea.

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Let me make it clear that I have nothing personal against a commercially made fruitcake. They have always been abundant in my life. As a girl I was  sometimes a bit confused when grown-ups referred to another person as “a fruitcake” and the “fruitcakes” that arrived on sideboards and kitchens every Holiday season.  It eventually became clear how they were somewhat similar yet different! All those muddled, unrecognizable bits and pieces…see what I mean?

Do you like commercially produced fruitcakes? Have you ever had a fruitcake you loved that came from a supermarket? What made it good?

“A Really Good Cake-with-Fruit or Fruitcake”

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups mixed dried fruit – dried cranberries or cherries, chopped peaches, currants, raisins, chopped apples or apricots (any combinations that you like)

2 cups strong Chai Tea, chilled

1/2 cup mixed chopped nuts – pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts (again whatever you like)

1/2 cup superfine sugar (if you don’t have any just put regular sugar in the food processor and pulse until fine-grained)

1 whole large egg

2 cups all-purpose flour whisked with 2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground cloves, 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

the zest from 1 orange

Directions:

1. Soak dried fruit in the chilled tea for at least 4 hours or up to overnight. I used       “Firepot Chia” made right here in Nashville.

Fire Pot Chai Tea

Tea with dried fruit

2. Preheat oven to 350. Grease a bundt cake pan or loaf pan. In a large bowl whisk the sugar & egg together until well mixed.  Stir in flour, baking powder mixture & dried spices. Mixture will be dry & crumbly at this point which is okay.

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3. Add tea soaked fruit, nuts, orange zest & all the tea left in the bowl. Stir until batter is wet throughout.

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4. Scrape batter into prepared pan & bake for 35-45 minutes. Test with a toothpick which should come out clean. Cool cake in the pan for about 10 minutes then turn out onto a cooling rack. Can be eaten warm or cooled completely, wrapped and eaten later. This cake just got better as the day went by!

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“Day 2”

Toasted fruitcake

My faith in the concept of “fruitcake” has been restored. All it took was turning my kitchen in to a laboratory dedicated to the artful study of “fruitcakes” for a couple of days and a bit of a (some might say) “fruitcake” approach to all this on my part.

It turned out better than I had hoped…a few not so great versions came before this one, but it has been worth it. I finally like “fruitcake”.

Happy Holiday Baking to you.l

tea and fruitcake

Day 1

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A Seasonal, Southern Red Bartlett Pear-Almond Cake (with Grits & Molasses)

Red Bartlett Pears

Three beautifully deep red Bartlett Pears, a bag of Bob’s Red Mill Almond Flour & a box of yellow grits, a bit of raw sugar & Muddy Pond sorghum molasses collided in my kitchen this afternoon. They did not start out intending to meet. They were all minding their own business sitting quietly on their shelves. It was really all the pears fault. They entered, sitting boldly on the counter, which is where I found them.  Perfectly ripe today, tomorrow they would not be so. The skins, soft and edible, melding with the flesh as I bit into one. They begged to become a cake, nothing fancy, just a simple rustic cake. I agreed.

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“A Seasonal Southern Red Bartlett Pear Almond Cake”

Here is what I used:

3 Red Bartlett pears, 1 cup raw sugar, 1 1/2 sticks softened butter, 2 TBSP sorghum molasses, 3 eggs, 2 tsp bourbon vanilla extract, 1 1/2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Almond Meal Flour, 1/2 cup yellow corn grits, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp salt, homemade “Very Vanilla Bean Sugar” (or store-bought vanilla sugar)  & Powdered Sugar to garnish

Very Vanilla Bean Sugar

Here is how you make it:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9″ springform pan.

2. Mix together the almond meal, grits, baking soda & salt. Set aside.

almond meal flour, grits, baking soda & salt

3. Cream sugar, butter & molasses together until fluffy. Beat in vanilla & eggs.  Turn mixer to low and add dry ingredients, mixing  just until well blended.

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4. Scrape batter into the prepared springform pan smoothing the top.

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5. Cut pears in half & remove cores from each. Cut each half into quarters. Place half of the pear quarters in a circle over the top of the cake batter.  Bake cake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and quickly add another layer of the pears on top of the partially baked cake. Return to oven and bake another 10 minutes or so. Remove cake from oven and while still hot sprinkle generously with “Very Vanilla Bean Sugar”. Sugar crystals will melt on top of the hot cake.

Pear Almond Cake

Pear Almond CakeA dense, very moist cake with lots of texture and flavor, almost like pear pudding in the middle. To gussy it up serve with a light dusting of powdered sugar.

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clean your plate please