Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Fresh ginger cake in cast iron

Sorry, I’ve been gone for awhile. Things. Life, you know. Am in Chicago staying with Marsena for a few days. Denis will join us later this week and we’ll be helping her move.

Some days there’s not much in life that can compete with a warm ginger cake. But add sweet, caramelized pears and I’d consider selling my bed. And you know how much I love my bed.

This cake has the subtle warmth of fresh ginger and gentle molasses. Add to that the slight crunch of sautéed pears and buttery caramel. Mmmmm. (Be sure to use a mild molasses. Blackstrap or dark is way too strong a flavor.)
Cast iron is really perfect for this recipe. I used a 9 inch skillet for the cake and a 10 inch for the pears. I don’t know if you’ve ever made a caramel sauce, but it’s not that hard and the results kill. Especially if you make it in a cast iron skillet – the heaviness of iron and the even distribution of heat way reduces chances of scorching or burning.  

Fresh Ginger Cake with Caramelized Pears
1 c flour
½ t. baking soda
¼ t. salt
¼ cup unsulfured molasses
¼ cup sour cream (lo-fat or no-fat doesn’t work)
4 T (2 oz) butter, melted and cooled slightly
¼ cup brown sugar
1 large egg
2 t. finely grated peeled fresh ginger
½ t. grated lemon zest

Caramelized pears:
2 medium firm-ripe pears, any kind
1 T fresh lemon juice
3 T butter
1/3 cup light brown sugar
4 T water
4 T heavy cream
2 t. brandy or bourbon

Oven 350 degrees.
Lightly grease an 8 or 9 inch cast iron skillet. Or, okay if you don’t have one – a round baking pan will do.

In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt. Set aside. In another medium bowl, combine molasses, sour cream, butter, brown sugar, egg, ginger, and zest. Whisk until smooth. Add flour mixture and stir just until combined. Pour batter into prepped skillet. Shake to even out. Bake 15-20 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Cool cake 5 minutes, turn out of pan onto a rack. Cool to room temp.

When ready to serve cake, peel the pears, cut in half lengthwise and into 8 wedges, discard cores. Place in bowl, toss with lemon juice. (I like a bit more pear so used 2 ½  pears. Eat the half you don’t use. Fruit, good.)

In a cast iron skillet large enough to hold the pears in one layer – 10 inch is about right – over medium heat, melt butter. Add pears and saute, shaking skillet occasionally, for 3 minutes. Sprinkle with sugar and continue to sauteing, gently turning the pears until the sugar is melted and pears are tender, but not too. Transfer pears back to bowl.

Still over medium heat, boil sugar-butter mixture, stirring occasionally, until it begins to turn a deep shade of caramel. While it cooks, combine water and cream in small bowl or cup. When caramel is the right color, remove skillet from heat and carefully – it can splatter- add the cream mixture. Then add the brandy and a pinch of salt. Return skillet to heat and simmer, stirring until thickened slightly. (If your caramel seized when you added the liquids, don’t worry; whisk briskly until it’s smooth again.) Return pears to skillet, and cook until heated through.
Serve cake in wedges, with a few pieces of pear alongside and caramel drizzled over the top.
Also fabulous with a dollop of whipped cream. Serves 4-6 people.

(This recipe was from A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg.)


Anita said...

This is a delicious recipe, Margie. And you make it just right. How have we been living without it all these years?

Edith said...

Oh man, I am definitely going to make this soon. It looks so good! All the different ingredients go so well together: pears and ginger, caramel and pears, caramel and ginger. My mouth is watering just thinking of it.