"The people who give you their food give you their heart" - Cesar Chavez

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dark Chocolate and Hazelnut Pear Upside Down Cake

I had some friends coming over for dinner and I wanted to make a delicious dessert. Normally, when searching for the perfect dessert recipe my challenge isn't finding one, but rather which one to make! I came across this recipe while browsing dessert cookbooks at Barnes & Nobel. I found the book Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson and came across this delicious sounding and even better looking chocolate upside down pear cake! I quickly scribbled down the recipe in my journal and I adapted it only slightly to add hazelnuts and more chocolate. This cake was a bit of an ordeal to make, or maybe that's only because it was my first time caramelizing sugar, but in the end it looked beautiful and tasted fantastic, especially with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I was also able to wrap the cake and have it for dessert over the next couple of days. I used one of those spring-form pans with the removable bottoms which made it a little easier to invert the cake at the end.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature, for the pan

Fruit Topping
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 firm but ripe pears, peeled and cored and cut into 12 slices each

1/4 unsalted butter
4.5 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts
1 cup flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, I used fake eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk

1. Butter a 9 inch round baking pan
2. In a heavy sauce pan, mix the sugar and water until the sugar dissolves. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, then cover and cook for two minutes. Uncover the sauce pan and continue to boil the sugar, gently and slowly stirring to cook the caramel evenly until it becomes a dark amber color. You will need to have a spatula on hand and a cup of cold water. Dip the spatula in cold water run it down the sides of the pan to prevent the sugar crystals from forming and clumping along the sides of the pan. This entire process can take a little while, in the ball park of 15-20 minutes with constant stirring. Below is a photo progression of the sugar caramelizing process:
3. When you have the dark amber color above, carefully and slowly pour the mixture into your buttered cake pan. The pan will instantly become hot so make sure to have oven mitts on.
4. Place the pear slices on top of the caramel in a circle and then filling in the center.
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
6. Place the butter and chocolate in a small sauce pan and melt over low heat, stirring occasionally.
7. In a bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Pour in the melted chocolate and butter and mix with a whisk sort of rapidly for 5 minutes. (If you have an electric mixer, this would be the time to use it for 3 minutes). Add in the eggs, one at a time and scraping down the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is incorporated. Stir in the vanilla and buttermilk and lastly, stir in the chopped hazelnuts.
8. Pour the batter over the pears in the prepared pan and place in the center of the oven for 40-45 minutes.
9. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, and then invert the cake on a plate, leaving the pan on top for 5 minutes before carefully removing. Serve the cake with ice cream and prepare to be hurtled into chocolate heaven!

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