My Grammie didn't have much variation in her desserts and she never baked, but the things she did make were always yummy. One thing she often served was cold canned pears with hot chocolate pudding ladled over them. The combination of the rich chocolatey creaminess of the hot pudding over the sweet, juicy cold pears was delicious and memorable. Those same flavors are recreated in this simple but memorable pear and chocolate cake.
As if the pear and chocolate combo going on here weren't enough, there is the addition of browned butter, adding even another level of flavor. The cake is moist and not too sweet, the pears are very sweet and luscious and the chocolate is...well, do I really need to describe that? It's chocolate- yes, there are hunks of bittersweet chocolate nestled throughout this baby. If you're on the fence about the chocolate with fruit thing, this might change your mind.
I first saw this recipe awhile back on the Smitten Kitchen blog and as soon as I took a look at the ingredients, I knew it was a winner. Deb Perelman, the author of Smittenkitchen.com, is a terrific and funny writer, who posts interesting and useful recipes that regular people want to make. You should definitely take a look at her site!
Now back to the cake. It's a fairly standard recipe with the exception of the browned butter. If you've never made browned butter before, here's a little visual to show you how.
After the butter has melted for a few minutes, it will start to foam--see all those little bubbles? If you continue to cook it and scrape the bottom and sides with a spatula or spoon, you'll soon see the brown solids at the bottom--
When it starts to smell nutty and has those brown bits (total time should be about 6-8 minutes), you remove it from the heat and set it aside. It's really easy, you just have to give it your full attention and not forget about it, or you'll wind up with burned, not browned butter!
Though you sprinkle the cut up pears and chocolate on top of the cake right before baking, they wind up sinking and dispersing throughout the cake so that what you wind up with is a cake that has a nice mostly smooth golden brown exterior and an interior that's filled with little pieces of pear and chocolate. It's divine!
So while pears are still in season, get yourself to the store or farm, and pick up a few so you can enjoy this treat in your home too!
Pear and Chocolate Cake
Serves 8-10 people
Prep Time: 20 minutes; Bake Time: 40-50 minutes; Total Time: A little over an hour
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 stick unsalted butter (4 oz.)
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3 ripe pears, preferably Bosc, peeled and cut into a small dice
- 3/4 cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chunks
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter a 9 -inch springform pan and dust it with flour, tapping out any excess. Set aside.
2. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl and set aside.
3. If you have a stand mixer, use the whisk attachment and whip the eggs on high speed until pale and very thick, about 7-8 minutes. If you are using a hand held mixer, it will take longer, probably 10-12 minutes and you should totally finish before you start browning the butter as it needs your complete attention.
4. While eggs are whipping, melt butter in a medium saucepan and cook it for about 6-8 minutes until it begins to foam and the butter smells nutty, with brown solids at the bottom of the pan. Scrape the bottom and sides of the pan while cooking (especially in the last couple of minutes) to ensure that the butter browns evenly. Remove from the heat but place it in a warm spot.
5. Add the sugar to the eggs and whip a few minutes more. Just as the egg-sugar mixture begins to lose volume, turn the mixer down to the lowest speed and add 1/3 of the flour mixture, then half of the butter, another 1/3 of the flour, the rest of the butter and the rest of the flour, just to barely combine. You don't want to overmix this. Then, remove from the mixer, and using a rubber spatula, gently fold to make sure all the flour is incorporated from the bottom.
6. Pour the batter into the pan and sprinkle the pear and chocolate over the top. Bake until the cake is golden brown and springs back to the touch, about 40-50 minutes, but also test with a tester to make sure batter is fully cooked--to do this you have to avoid the pear and chocolate. Make sure cake is fully cooked or it will be gummy.
7. Let stand on a wire rack until completely cool, then unmold and serve. I served this plain, but I think it would go well with sweetened whipped cream too.
Note: Recipe adapted from @Smittenkitchen.com who adapted it from Al Di La Restaurant in Park Slope, Brooklyn