At its point of perfection, an apple shouts, a pear whispers. ~ Nigel Slater
I don't need to tell you what's happening in two months time. If you've poked your head into any retail outlet, harmlessly looking for boots or pillows or cat litter, you've seen the signs for Christmas 2012. In the olden days, you wouldn't see such stuff until after Halloween, but it's seems like every year the goods are coming out quicker and quicker. Some of you may have already started (or finished!) your shopping, to which I give you a high five. I'm not, nor will ever be one of those people. Most days I'm lucky if my to-do list gets crossed off, and then I reward myself with tea and cake. Fair deal.
What do you think? Too early to talk gingerbread? Hell, no. Right now, as I look out the window into my front yard, I see snow, yes snow, covering the lawn and dusting the trees. Winter has clasped onto us here in Saskatoon already, and I'm not very pleased about the whole situation. My boots and winter jacket are still in storage (denial! denial!) and I'm hoping to high heaven that this is just a passing cold phase; that we'll see warmer temps again...soon. Cross your fingers for me, okay?
While I may be eschewing the weather, I'm embracing the comfort food that comes with it. Maybe, if you are like me and my mother, you've already starting to think about menus for the holidays. (Mom wants to cook a goose this year, which I find very intriguing.) Over the next several weeks I want to share with you some of my favourites that may find their way onto our dinner table this year. And of course that means starting with dessert first, right? This upside-down pear gingerbread cake is one of my all time faves - quite simple in preparation and if I tell you it's low fat, will you believe me? Okay fine. It's not super duper low fat, but there is applesauce in it, which busts out some of the butter. It's everything you want your gingerbread to be - spicy, tender, not too sweet, and it smells like Christmas. The pears get caramelized and lend an air of sophistication to an already awesome cake. Crystallized ginger takes it up a notch, and without a doubt your house will smell like magic. Let's do this!
Quartered and peeled pears get the caramel treatment in a skillet, or oven proof dish of your choosing.
A gingerbread batter gets poured over top. Smooth it out, bake it off.
Carefully invert onto a pretty platter. This one was a gift from a favourite auntie. I need to call her! Dish out slices of this gingerbread while still warm, and top it with good vanilla ice cream, or whipped cream. Whether served at the holidays or on a chilly weeknight, it's sure to bring you comfort and joy.
Upside-Down Pear Gingerbread Cake
I could have used apple butter instead of applesauce, but I'm hoarding that stuff like gold, so applesauce it is. If you substitute apple butter, reduce the spices and sugar in cake a tad.
1/3 cup butter
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
3 organic pears (I used Bartlett) peeled and cored, each pear cut into 8 slices, for 24 slices total.
2 tbsp crystallized ginger, diced small
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup applesauce
1/2 cup molasses
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 350*F.
In the bottom of an oven proof skillet melt the butter and stir in brown sugar until smooth OR pour melted butter into the bottom of a 9-inch baking pan, stir in the brown sugar. Lay the pears on top of the butter/brown sugar, in a pretty circle. Sprinkle the crystallized ginger on top. Set aside.
In the bowl of a mixer, cream together the butter and brown sugar. Add eggs and beat until fluffy. Stir in the applesauce and molasses. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients and stir into molasses mixture, until smooth. Pour over pears, smooth top and bake for 35-40 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Run a knife around the edges and carefully invert onto serving platter. Do this as soon as cake comes out of oven. Let it hang out for a minute or two, so all of the topping comes out. Serve warm with whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream. Serves 8-10.