Bittersweet Chocolate and Pear Cake

4 02 2010

The Main Ingredients

Sous Chef reporting! Another Smitten Kitchen obsession… and yet another chance to showcase pears, the winter fruit of champions. (Don’t worry, there will be another post to highlight apples, so don’t be sad!) It took me a bit longer that I intended to try this recipe, even though I bought the pears at the farmer’s market almost immediately after discovering it.

I mean, pears and eggs and chocolate – how can this go wrong?!

My hesitations were thus: 1) A certain fluffiness was required of the eggs, meaning I’d need a motorized mixer to make it happen, and I’d need to be careful not to lose volume, and 2) it involved browning butter – at the same time as you’re beating the eggs, no less – and I was pretty sure leaving me in charge of browning anything would result in blackening it instead.

For awhile I thought, I need to wait for the Chef to be available to aid and oversee this process. But as time wore on and the pears became more in danger of going to waste, I convinced myself that I could do it. More importantly, I realized there was very good chance this cake would be delicious whether or not I managed to successfully fluffify the eggs. And with that mindset, I moved forward.

As it bakes, the batter rises up and envelopes the pear and chocolate.

I borrowed a handmixer from the Chef, but in the end, it just didn’t have enough power. The recipe said if you had a commercial stand mixer it would take 5 minutes, and if you had a home model it would take 9 minutes. I’m pretty sure she actually meant if I had a home model of, say, a super-fancy Kitchen Aid. 9 minutes of mixing with the handmixer did not produce the desired results, and really it hadn’t increased in volume since 4 minutes, so I knew extra mixing wouldn’t help. However, I didn’t let it faze me – it just meant I didn’t have to worry about over-mixing and losing volume, because I didn’t have the volume to begin with. No problem!

Browning the butter worked out pretty well. At first I wasn’t sure if I had the heat on high enough. What was interesting is I turned my back for a few seconds, and when I turned back it had gone brown in like an instant. I immediately removed it from the burner and voila, perfectly browned butter – totally on accident.

(I turned my back in the first place because I realized that, in the process of browning the butter, I was melting my spatula. Thankfully I am confident that no evil toxicness leaked into the butter, so I went ahead and used it – but the spatula unfortunately went into the trash.)

As you can see from the photo above, once you pour the batter into the pan, you add the diced pear and bittersweet chocolate chunks (I used Ghirardelli) on top, and the batter bakes up around them.

The delicious, delicious finale.

After the pear muffin adventure – it was originally slated to be pear BREAD, in a bundt cake pan like this, but I had no bread pan of any kind – I found one at Goodwill and thought, here’s something I can use and reuse to make my breads look more impressive! I am all for that. Before using it for this adventure, I made sure to check with the internet – a pan conversion site assured me that this bundt cake pan, with its specific measurements, was a satisfactory replacement for the springform pan for which the recipe called, baking-wise.

The final product, fresh out of the oven, was orgasmically delicious. Although I’m certain the final cake should have been springier – which would have happened had I been able to get the eggs right – I absolutely don’t miss it.

The sad side effect of not having the appropriate springform pan is that there was no way of getting the cake out of the pan, for proper (and prettier) presentation. When I last baked in the pan (which I’ll tell you about when I write the apple-bread post) I was able to turn it over and dump it right out – however, this cake has a solid layer of just fruit and chocolate, and turning the pan over just made the top layer of cake and all the pear chocolate layer fall out, with the rest of the cake inside.

Ooops.

I put the top back in, and have since been serving it with a scoop. It still tastes just as delicious. (To me, anyway. I was flabbergasted to hear the Chef say he’s on the fence about pear and bittersweet chocolate in the same food. He tried a bite of it, and has left the rest of the eating to me. Hopefully I’ll be able to share some with friends this weekend, so as to not have eaten it all by myself.)

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