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    Entries in caramelly goodness (11)

    Monday
    May132013

    Pear Mayhem!

    Oh, it's Mayhem alright.

    I bought a bag of pears a little while ago and they are delicious and just the right size for taking to lunch for afternoon snacks, but the trouble with a whole bag of pears is that they all ripen at the same time. And then you have a bag of super-ripe pears and way more afternoon snacks than one person can eat in three days.

    Fortunately, you also need something to take for breakfast. Or eat at home for breakfast. Or dessert. But really, this is more of a breakfast cake.

    Cake for breakfast! Mayhem!

    Oh, and once again, I'm winging it. Because, I laugh in the face of Mayhem!

    It laughed back at me.

    Pear Upside Down Cake

    • 3-4 pears
    • 1/4 cup melted butter
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    • 1/2 cup butter
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 2 tsp ground ginger
    • 3/4 cup milk
    • 1 1/2 cups flour
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 2 pears, grated

    Preheat the oven to 350 and bring all the ingredients to room temperature. 

    Butter and line an 8 inch square pan with parchment.

    Pour the melted butter into the pan, sprinkle over the sugar, and lay in the pears. If you plan on presenting this for some kind of fancy breakfast, you could arrange the pears artfully. Me, I wanted to use as many as possible, so I crammed 4 pears into the bottom of the pan.

    Cream the butter and sugar together, then add the eggs.

    If you ever get eggshell in your batter, the best thing to take it out is another eggshell.

    Beat in the eggs, and then the ginger and the milk.

    Mix in the dry ingredients. If you'd like to sift the baking powder and baking soda into the flour first, go right ahead, but this is a quick cake, and if you just give the dry stuff a bit of a stir as it sits on top of the wet before mixing the two together, that's just fine.

    If the pears you're grating in aren't super ripe and juicy, you may want to add anothe 1/4 cup of milk or pear juice. However, I recommend using ridiculously ripe pears.

    Pears seem to be classed as a "hard" fruit most of the time, treated much like apples are, but a nice ripe pear is not crisp like an apple is. A perfectly ripe pear will crush in your hand the same way a peach does.

    Mix in the pears and spread the batter over the sliced ones on the bottom of the pan.

    Hm. That's a really full pan.

    I however, am not anywhere near as smart as Taneasha, and I didn't put mine onto a baking sheet.

    Instead I popped the pan in the oven and set the timer for 40 minutes.

    10 minutes later, the cake started sending me smoke signals out of the vent. I opened the oven. And then I opened every window in my apartment and the front door.

    The sugar at the bottom of the pan had bubbled up and overflowed onto the bottom of the oven.

    I yanked the cake and put it on a sheet covered with parchment, then shoved it back into the oven.

    I had to vent the smoke every few minutes for the next 15 minutes, but eventually it cleared.

    I've been thinking for a while that I should clean the oven. I guess I really have to now.

    Um, okay, apparently rising was not an issue this time.

    Crap, I'm supposed to flip this thing upside down to let the pears out.

    A bread knife, horizontal, and that wacky peak is taken care of. This trick works well for levelling out the bottom half of a layer cake too.

    And since I don't have a square plate, or a round platter big enough for this thing, and since I need something to store it in, I flipped it into my 9 inch square Corningware pan.

    Nailed it.

    I'll just trim the edge off to make it fit.

    The taste of this is just fabulous. I know there's nothing in there but ginger, but that's the point. The ginger gives the soft cake a nice bite that perfectly offsets the smooth pear.

    And the caramel! Holy cow.

    I think next time I may add a bit of ginger to the sugar-butter mixture that makes up the caramel.

    What would you add ginger to?

     

    Monday
    May062013

    1-2-3-4 Can I Have a Little More?

    All together now!

    The first cookie request was shortbread. One of the easiest things to make and one of the most difficult to perfect. They should be tender, but not flakey, sweet, but not cloying, simple, but flavourful.

    Sounds nearly impossible, I know. But really, it's as easy as 1, 2, 3... 4.

    This recipe came from an old friend of mine. We did a cookie exchange every xmas, and I'd ransom my army of tiny gingerbread men for her shortbread coins. When I finally saw how she made them, I was stunned. So few ingredients and the preparation breaks all kinds of cookie rules. But, rules were made to be broken, right?

    I've actually got plans to break more, so I figure this is a good way to work you into the idea of making cookies in a somewhat less than traditional manner.

    Shortbread Cookies

    • 1 c brown sugar
    • 2 c unsalted butter
    • 3 c flour
    • 4 tbsp cornstarch

    Now you know how I managed to remember the recipe all these years.

    The most important thing to notice though: UNsalted butter. Most cookie recipes include salt to help the leaveners work, and so salted butter can be used as long as you decrease the added salt. This recipe, you may notice, requires neither of those. No salt to decrease, so no salt in the butter.

    Brown sugar is also not entirely traditional, but with the absence of vanilla or any other flavouring the little bit of molasses goes a long way. It also adds a bit of gold to the "coins."

    Now, this is where things get a little weird...

    Put all of the ingredients into a bowl. (Butter really needs to be soft and room temperature)

    Squish them.

    I told you we'd be doing weird non-cookie preparation things.

    You have to use your hands for this. Have to.

    Don't knead, just squish. Kneading will start gluten forming and lengthen the dough. We want shortbreads, not longbreads.

    In only a few minutes you'll end up with a very soft ball of dough. And no spoon to wash.

    Much too soft to do anything with right now. 

    So, split it into two, make sausages out of them, and chill them like we did to the creamsicle cookie filling.

    Give them at least a half hour to chill and stiffen.

    I left mine in there for about 2 hours.

    And preheated the oven as soon as I took them out of the fridge.

    300 degrees.

    With a sharp knife, slice them just under a half inch thick. 8mm. or 3/8 of an inch.

    They don't spread much so you can pack quite a few onto the parchment covered sheet.

    Ideally, shortbread cookies should have no colour on the bottom of them. The low cooking temperature makes that easy. If you use white sugar and temps as low as 200F (you have to cook them for 20-25 minutes in an oven that low) you can get very pale cookies. Me, I like the caramel flavour that comes from the brown sugar and I'm not patient enough to wait 25 minutes for a sheet of cookies.

    So, I do these at 300 for 15 minutes. Some came out a little on the golden side, but this is what you're looking for:

    Top and bottom are pretty much the same colour.

    They're very soft when they come out of the oven. Give them a minute on the sheet, and then slide the parchment onto the cooling rack.

    When they're cooled, stack them into the magic cookie tin.

    The crumbly, sandy texture of these absolutely melts in your mouth.

    A few dozen of these and you can have my entire gingerbread army.

    What cookie have you used as currency?