As you can tell, I've been a little, tiny, teensy bit obsessed with pears lately. Something about their light, delicate sweetness makes the bolder, brighter fruit seem slightly garish and somehow overdressed in comparison. There is a time for loud and bright - summer, for example, and the middle of winter to chase away the blahs - but now, when everything around me is just waking up and growing and changing in preparation for spring, I crave the subtlety and the reserved nature of the pear. And they have such beautiful names, also - Bartlett, D'Anjou, Harrow Sweet, Luscious, Rosemarie and Summer Beauty - that it's hard to pass them by at the market without buying at least a few. Especially when they reminded me of this delectable recipe from Chocolate and Zucchini that I came across a while ago. How could I resist?!
This is one of those cakes that is as humble as its ingredients (a classic flour/eggs/butter/sugar combination), but the taste is lovely and delicate. It doesn't demand attention, but gives all of your senses a simple and lingering pleasure. You could dress it up with confectioner's sugar or with vanilla ice cream, but you could also just serve it by itself with steaming cups of freshly brewed tea.
Gâteau de Mamy à la Poire (reprinted with many thanks and great respect)
1 stick plus 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
4 large pears or 6 small ones
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons ground almonds
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Melt the butter in a small bowl and set aside to cool. Butter a non-stick 9-inch cake pan.
Wash, peel and cut up the pears. Lay the pieces of fruit at the bottom of the pan.
In a medium mixing-bowl, whisk the sugar with the eggs until the mixture whitens slightly. Add in the flour, almond powder and baking powder, and whisk well. Pour in the butter, and blend again. Pour the batter evenly over the fruit, and put into the oven to bake for 40 to 50 minutes.
Let the cake settle on a cooling rack for a few minutes. Invert it on a plate (the fruit side will be on top). If any bit of fruit has stuck to the bottom of the pan, simply scrape them and place them back where they belong on the cake. Use a second plate to invert the cake again (the fruit side will then be at the bottom). Let cool and serve slightly warm or at room temperature.