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Bittersweet Chocolate and Pear Cake

March 26, 2009

Um, oops. I’m not a very good blogger, am I? I haven’t even had this site going for a month and I’m already slacking off on the posting. I guess I’ve just been too busy eating and thinking about food to write about it! But I can change that right now.

Last weekend it was rainy and dreary outside. That meant no photo excursions or long walks with the dog in nice Spring weather. So what’s a girl to do? Bake, of course!

Bittersweet Chocolate and Pear Cake

I wasn’t craving anything in particular so I resorted to browsing one of my favorite food blogs, Smitten Kitchen. (Which, if you haven’t visited yet, you should. Like right now. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Just make sure you come back! Back now? Ok, now where was I?) I read through the baked goods recipes until I found one that sounded both different and delicious: bittersweet chocolate and pear cake. It seemed a little unusual, but I love chocolate (duh) and I love pears, so why not put the two together in a cake?

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The results were even better than I imagined. The secret ingredient in this cake is the browned butter. I’ve never made a cake with browned butter before, but it imparts such a delightfully nutty flavor that I can’t believe more recipes don’t call for it. The bittersweet chocolate and pear cake came out perfectly moist and delicious, but it gets even better after a few days as the pear juices seep into the surrounding cake. Yum.

Al Di La’s Torta di Pere [Bittersweet Chocolate and Pear Cake]
Courtesy of Al Di La Restaurant in Park Slope, Brooklyn, via Smitten Kitchen

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, at room-temperature
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 pears, peeled, in a small dice (I used bosc and they worked just fine)
3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chunks

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and dust with breadcrumbs (I cheated and used flour), set aside.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together, set aside.

Using a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (and you will definitely want to use a mixer for this!), whip the eggs on high speed until pale and very thick. (In a professional Kitchen Aid, it takes at least five minutes; on a home machine, it will take nine minutes to get sufficient volume.)

While the eggs are whipping, brown the butter. (If you’re bad at multi-tasking, go ahead and do this step before whipping the eggs.) Melt the butter in a medium saucepan (because it will foam a lot) and cook it until the butter browns and smells nutty (about 6 to 8 minutes). Keep an eye on it and frequently scrape the solids off the bottom of the pan in the last couple minutes to ensure even browning. Remove from the heat but keep in a warm spot.

Add the sugar to the eggs and whip a few minutes more.

Just as the egg-sugar mixture is starting to loose volume, turn the mixture down to stir, and add the flour mixture and brown butter. Add one third of the flour mixture, then half of the butter, a third of the flour, the remaining butter, and the rest of flour. Whisk until just barely combined — no more than a minute from when the flour is first added — and then use a spatula to gently fold the batter until the ingredients are combined. It is very important not to over-whisk or fold the batter or it will lose volume.

Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle the pear and chocolate chunks over the top. (Don’t get tempted to stir them into the batter! The cake will rise up around the chunks and they will ultimately end up in the middle of the cake, right where they belong. It might look like you have way too much pear and chocolate, but don’t worry, you don’t.) Bake until the cake is golden brown and springs back to the touch, about 40 to 50 minutes (start checking on it at 30 minutes), or until a tester comes out clean.

Serve topped with a sprinkling of powdered sugar, a dollop of whipped cream, or even some ice cream. Heck, eat it plain straight out of the oven if you want. It will still taste good!

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