During the Middle Ages, rich European ladies slipped their favorite knights a bit of gingerbread before an important tournament. Sweet, aromatic, crumbly, swoon-worthy gingerbread. How utterly romantic is that!? If you need proof, the painting below portrays a lady and her knight. Theirs was […]
Damn! It is almost November and Blue Cayenne almost missed celebrating October as National Caramel Month. What was I thinking? The only excuse I can think of is that I’ve been in a sugar-induced stupor for the last couple of weeks. With Halloween […]
According to Chinese mythology, Goddess Xi Wang Mu grew immortality fruits in her garden. Most sources say they were peaches. Some say they were cherries. (Both are stone fruits.) Whatever immortality fruit it was, there was one very big problem. The fruits ripened every thousand years. It was one of those Catch-22 situations. You pretty much had to be immortal to live long enough to consume immortality fruit. (Or, you had to have very very good timing.)
While the cherries now being sold at your local farmers market may not make you live forever, their consumption can improve your health in other important ways. For example, cherries are rich in flavonoids, an antioxidant believed to soothe arthritis and muscle pain. In fact, they rank fourteenth among the top fifty antioxidant-rich foods, ahead of dark chocolate, orange juice, prunes and red wine. Cherries also contain the antioxidant melatonin, a natural hormone thought to regulate the sleep cycle. Did I mention that they are fat free?
Ninety-four percent of the cherries consumed in the U.S. are grown here, with the bulk of the fresh sweet cherries now in the markets originating in the Pacific Northwest. So, for those of us here on the west coast, we’re eating local when we consume cherries.
Today is my good friend Sarah’s birthday. I made this cake for her. I’m counting on her being immortal. Genuine friends are, after all, very hard to come by.
A link to the original recipe appears at the end of this post.
Recipe: Cherry Upside-Down Cake
1/4 C. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 C. packed golden brown sugar
14 Oz. cherries (pitted and sliced in half)
1 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 C. sugar
1/2 C. (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 Large eggs (separated)
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 C. whole milk
1/4 t. cream of tartar
1 C. chilled whipping cream
1 1/2 T. powdered sugar
1/2 t. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Prepare a 9-inch cake pan by buttering bottom and sides of pan. Put cake pan on low heat on your stove and melt 1/4 C. butter in pan. Add the brown sugar and whisk over low heat until butter and sugar are fully incorporated. This will take about two minutes. Remove pan from heat and, using a spatula or your fingers, spread the sugar/butter mixture over the bottom of the pan. Arrange pitted and halved cherries on top of the brown sugar mixture with the cut sides of the cherries facing down. Press cherries lightly into the sugar mixture. Set the prepared pan aside while you prepare the cake batter.
Using a whisk, mix flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl.
Put 1 C. sugar and 1/2 cup room-temperature butter into another bowl and mix with an electric mixer until the butter and sugar are fully combined and the mixture is creamy. Mix egg yolks into butter mixture, adding them one at a time and mixing after each addition. Mix in 1 t. vanilla. Alternating between the dry flour mixture and the milk, mix flour and milk into the creamy butter-sugar mixture.
Clean your beaters thoroughly to remove any butter from the beaters and dry them completely. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar in a bowl until soft peaks form. Mix 1/4 of the beaten egg whites into the batter and then fold the rest of the egg whites carefully into the batter. Don’t beat the egg whites too much. You want the airy beaten egg whites to lighten your cake batter. Spoon your batter over the cherries in your prepared pan.
Bake cake for 55 minutes. A toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake should come out clean if the cake is properly cooked. Also, the top of the cake should be a light golden brown and the cake should spring back when you press lightly with your fingers.
Set baked cake on a wire rack for 15 minutes to cool.
Meanwhile, whip cream and powdered sugar with 1/2 t. vanilla until soft peaks form.
Using a small knife, run the knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the cake. Place a dish over the top of the cake and invert cake onto the dish but don’t remove the pan at this point. Let the cake sit in the pan for another five minutes to allow it to loosen from the pan without breaking the cake apart. Remove the pan and serve cake warm or at room temperature. Top with whipped cream and sliced fresh cherries.
Here is the link to the original recipe:
This recipe represents a marriage between two fond food memories.
Years ago, I attended a cooking school in downtown Seal Beach called La Bonne Cuisine. The lady who ran the school was a gifted cook, a dedicated foodie and a bit edgy. One of the recipes she taught was a frangipane tart. To this day, I remember the otherworldly aroma of that tart just out of the oven. Who knew an almond filling could taste (and smell) so good. I’m still looking for the La Bonne Cuisine recipe and will post it when (and if) I find it.
The other food memory (a recent one) is of my French neighbor’s pear tart. I confess that I had never had a pear tart before but one bite and I was hooked. Apparently pear tarts are a favored French dessert.
Recently, reminiscing about those two wonderful tastes, I found this recipe on the Williams Sonoma site.
This week I found extraordinary pears at the Long Beach Farmers Market and decided to make this tart again.
I think the frangipane filling is at its best served warm, so I would suggest that you permit yourself a generous slice of this tart fresh from the oven. Equally good, you could give a slice a tiny zap in the microwave. I enjoyed my slice–OK my two slices–with a steaming cup of Darjeeling tea.
The tart is delightful. Or, as my French neighbor would say appreciatively, Bon!
Here is my adaptation of the Williams Sonoma recipe:
Recipe: Pear and Frangipane Tart
1 basic recipe for tart dough
2 T. unsalted butter
6 oz. Trader Joe’s almond meal or 1 12 cups raw unblanched whole almonds (finely ground)
2/3 C. sugar
2 eggs (lightly beaten)
1/2 t. almond extract
1 t. vanilla extract
2 T. rum
1/4 t. salt
1 t. finely grated lemon zest
3 Anjou or Bartlett pears, peeled, quartered and cored
1/3 C. apricot jam
Press the dough into a tart pan. I found the Williams Sonoma tart dough difficult to roll, so I simply pressed the dough into my tart pan with my fingers. My crust turned out just fine. Refrigerate or freeze the tart shell until firm, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Line chilled tart shell with aluminum foil or parchment paper and fill with pie weights, rice or dry beans. Bake for 30 minutes. Pie crust should be a pale gold color. If your shell is not yet gold, cook for five to ten minutes more. Carefully remove foil and weights and cool tart shell on a wire rack.
Put butter in a pan on your stove and cook over medium heat for a few minutes until the butter is golden brown. Let butter cool off the stove while you prepare the almond filling.
Put almond meal (or ground almonds), sugar, eggs, almond extract, vanilla extract, rum, salt, and lemon zest into a bowl. Stir and then stir in brown butter. Using a spatula, spread this mixture on the cooled tart shell. Set aside.
Peel and core pears. Slice pears into quarters. Without cutting the pear apart, make 1/8 inch slices into each pear quarter. Press each pear quarter with your hand to slightly fan the slices. Place pear fans on the frangipane filling in your tart and press fans gently so that they are pressed into the filling.
Bake your tart for 40 minutes. The frangipane almond filling should feel firm to the touch. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.
Put apricot jam into a pan over low heat and heat until jam is liquified. Strain jam and brush jam on top of tart.
Here is the link to Williams Sonoma’s recipe. This link includes a link to the recipe for the tart dough.