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

 

Blackberries, A Snake and An Upside Down (Gluten Free) Cake

Fresh Blackberries Please

I will bet most of you do not think of Blackberries and immediately think of Snakes…yes real live Snakes! Let me just say I am pretty crazy about freshly picked Blackberries, but not so crazy about snakes (sorry snake lovers). Why, you might ask, do I think of these two things simultaneously? Let me tell share with you a very short vignette….

….West Tennessee on a dry, dusty, hotter-than-Hades kind of day…lots of years ago when I was around 9 or 10…

I loved doing anything with my Grandmother (Granny) no matter if it was work or play.  I always wanted to tag along. The wild blackberries hung heavy & ripe all around so it was time to go berry-picking, the wild kind not the kind of blackberries planted in neat rows.  We were cautioned to wear “real shoes” &  to take care when blackberry picking as snakes liked berry patches.  This caution, along with many others doled out on such occasions, was met with a certain nonchalance on my part. Before this particular day, not after, nor since.

The sun was relentless as we began to pick around the outer edge of the very dense berry patch. At first reaching what was easy. But so very many large juicy black berries were just out of my reach a few feet into the patch. I wanted those berries. I boldly stepped forward with one foot lifted off the ground when I “felt” something move liquid smooth, quietly, directly beneath where I was about to plant my foot. I froze, foot midair.  Looking down I saw the snake slithering, very large & fat right underneath my berries & my foot. I am convinced to this day that I did levitate, backwards, out of the berry patch. There is something very Biblical about levitation isn’t there? And Fruit? And Snakes?

I did not pick anymore berries that summer.  I have picked since, I have bought many berries that others have picked, I am still pretty crazy about blackberries, but still not so much about snakes.

Here is a really easy not-so-sweet upside down cake that I made last Sunday using fresh local Blackberries picked by others, along with a few Pluots.

Cake

Here is what you will need to make this very dense moist gluten-free cake:

Ingredients for Upside Down Cake

1/2 stick Butter, 1 pint of Blackberries, 2 Pluots (or plums or peaches), 1 cup Raw Sugar/Turbinado, 2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Cornbread Mix, 1 cup Almond Meal Flour, the zest of 1 Lemon, 3 eggs, 2 cups Buttermilk, Sliced Almonds

Here is how you make it:

Skillet with Browned Butter

1. Place a 10-12 inch cast iron skillet with the 1/2 stick of butter over medium high heat until the butter is browned. Remove skillet from heat & set aside to cool somewhat. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Let me take a moment to say that if you do not have an iron skillet get one. A good seasoned cast iron skillet is just the best thing to use for all sorts of cooking. Lodge pre-seasoned cast iron skillets can be purchased very affordably on-line. I have many of their skillets in various sizes that I use daily.  For this recipe I am using my Great Grandmother’s iron skillet which is amazing well seasoned and is one of the reasons this cake will slip right out of the pan after it is cooked with no sticking.

Blackberries & Pluots in Iron Skillet

2. Slice Pluots & arrange in the bottom of the iron skillet over the browned butter. Sprinkle the Blackberries to cover bottom of skillet between & around Pluot slices.

Batter for Upside Down Cake

3. In a large mixing bowl whisk together the cornmeal, almond flour & sugar.  Add eggs & buttermilk & lemon zest.  Blend until batter is smooth. Spread batter over fruit in the skillet. Sprinkle with a generous handful of sliced almonds.

Upside down cake batterUpside down cake batter over fruit

Batter in skilletSliced Almonds over Upside Down Cake Batter

4. Bake in 375 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes until golden brown &  bubbly around the edges & set in the center. Let cake cool in the skillet for about 10 minutes.

Upside Down Cake Baked

5. The “reveal” of an upside down cake is always the fun part. Place a plate or platter larger than the skillet face down over the skillet & then quickly & carefully invert plate & skillet right side up.

Plate

See how easy that was?

Blackberry Upside Down Cake

The crunch of the cornmeal combined with the browned butter, lemon zest & almond flavors & not too much sugar meld to make a very satisfying breakfast cake. Dust with a bit of powdered sugar if desired.

DSC_1653

Have you ever picked wild berries? Have you ever almost stepped on a snake? Do you connect foods you eat to events  from your past?

After I posted this my friend Diane Stopford, a Dubliner, left me a comment and a link to a poem by Seamus Heaney “Blackberry Picking” which I wanted to share with you. Thanks Diane.

Eat more Cake.

A Ruby Red Rio Star Grapefruit Upside-Down Cake for Dark February Days

Rio Star Grapefruit

Hold On! Do Not Panic! This is not a giant red asteroid about to hit the earth!

It is, on the other hand, a very close-up iphone photo of a Texas Rio Star Grapefruit that I just turned into the most delicious upside down cake.

Last year about this time I was writing about Blood Oranges and baking little tartlets. This year I have turned to Texas Rio Star Grapefruits & Upside-Down Cakes.  Deep winter is the only time I can find these ruby red-orange grapefruits in our local markets.

An Upside-Down Cake is such a classic and simple, homey & cozy dessert…the perfect foil for this jewel of the citrus world.

Rio Star Grapefruit Upside-Down Cake

This recipe was inspired by  a recipe for upside-down Blood Orange Cake I saw in The New York Times, Wednesday, January 16, 2013 in an article by Melissa Clark.  Here is my version using Texas Rio Star Grapefruits .

Here is what you will need:

2  Texas Rio Star Grapefruits

1 1/2 stick of Butter  softened + 1/2 stick for baking pan

2/3 cup Dark Brown Sugar

1 TBSP freshly squeezed Lemon Juice

1/2 cup White whole-wheat Flour

1 cup Yellow Cornmeal

1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder

Generous pinch of Sea or Kosher Salt

1 cup Raw Sugar

4 Eggs

1/2 cup Plain Greek Yogurt

1 TBSP grated Rio Star Grapefruit peel

1 TBSP Vanilla Extract

Here is how you make this cake:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt the 1/2 stick butter over medium heat in a 10 inch iron skillet. Remove from heat. Stir the dark brown sugar & lemon juice into the melted butter. Set aside.

Butter & Sugar Melted

2. Slice off the top and bottom of each of the Grapefruits. Cut the peel & pith away from the Grapefruit. Cut peeled Grapefruit into 1/4″ circles. Remove any seeds.

Rio Star Grapefruit

3. Arrange Grapefruit slices over the bottom of the iron skillet covering the butter-sugar-lemon juice mixture.

Butter Sugar Melted

Rio Star Grapefruit Wheels

4. In a bowl mix together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder & salt with a whisk. Using a mixer, blend together in a large mixing bowl the 1 1/2 stick softened butter & raw sugar.  Scrape down side of bowl when needed. Add eggs one at a time mixing well between each addition. Add zest, yogurt & vanilla extract. Add flour mixture by 1/2 cupfuls at a time to the butter-sugar-egg mixture until well mixed. Do not over-mix.  Batter will be thick. Scrape batter into the skillet over the grapefruit slices spreading out to edges  and smoothing top of batter.

Upside-Down Cake Batter

5. Bake for about 40-45 minutes until the center is set and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool cake for a few minutes in the pan.

Baked Upside-Down Cake

6. Invert cake upside-down on a large plate or platter and serve warm or at room temperature.

Rio Star Grapefruit Upside Down Cake

Here, have a bite….

Rio Star Upside-Down Cake

This is a very moist cake, with a slight bit of crunch from the cornmeal, very citrusy and not too sweet. The colors are to die for and will make you very happy in these dark days of February.

Drink it or eat it, but get some Vitamin C however you can!

Rio Star Grapefruits