Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving/Pear Cranberry Cake

Giving thanks is a funny thing, because it so often feels cliché and insincere, it’s so easy to know what I am grateful for, but it is so much harder to express it. Right at this very moment, as I sit at the airport waiting to board the plane that will bring me to my family, I am grateful that US Immigration and Border Control didn’t notice the stash of goodies I have stowed in my carry-on. Seriously, that’s all I can think about, how lucky I am that after several hours of work, the pumpkin cake, the spiced nuts and the cranberry-pear brown butter cake that I made last night are still safe and sound.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving I feel like I should be waxing poetic about how lucky I feel that I have a loving family, wonderful friends, that I am healthy and so on. Don’t get me wrong, I am immensely thankful for that, but I don't need a national holiday to remind me.

I think that Thanksgiving should be about giving thanks for the other stuff, those things that we so often forget, but could not live without. So, in this moment, I am choosing to be grateful for something as insignificant as a cake making it across the border. For me, it’s the little things that always put the biggest smiles on my face. Like the plastic tabs they stick on coffee cups to prevent spillage, or the days when grapefruit is the first cough drop flavor in the pack, or the toddlers from day care walking around campus holding hands. None of these is important, none of these has changed my life the way my family and friends have, but these are the things that make every day different than the one before. These are the things I look forward to in the morning without even knowing what they’ll be.

So yes, I am happy that my cakes didn’t get taken away, because if they had I wouldn’t have gotten to share one of my favorite ‘little joys’ with my family. Cooking is a part of who I am and cooking something exquisite is an accident that happens from time to time, but when it does, it makes my day the same way those other little things do. This cake definitely made my day. I am still trying to decide if it’s the nutty brown butter or the tart cranberries that make it taste so good. Come to think of it, maybe its the fruit to cake ratio, which is perfect, the cake just barely hugging the soft buttery pears. Today though, it’s not about the cake. It's about a few cakes making it to my family so that I get a chance to share with them. I know I would have been just as happy about this on any other day, but today is Thanksgiving after all and I want to say Thank You.

Pear-Cranberry Brown Butter Cake
(adapted from The Traveler's Lunchbox)

4 bosc pears, peeled cored and sliced thin
1 1/2 c. cranberries (fresh or frozen)
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
3/4 c. plus 3 tablespoons sugar
3/4 c. unsalted butter
1/2 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise (i.e. cut a bean in half crosswise, then split the half lengthwise)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 c. all-purpose flour, sifted
1/4 tsp. salt

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter an 11-inch (28cm) nonreactive tart pan or other similarly-sized glass or ceramic baking dish. Toss the pears in a bowl with the lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Spread the pears evenly in the prepared pan. Spread the cranberries over them.

2) Combine the butter and vanilla bean in a small saucepan (not nonstick - you need to be able to see the butter change color). Cook the butter over medium until the milk solids are light brown and the whole thing smells deeply nutty, about 7-10 minutes. Watch carefully to avoid burning.

3) Allow to cool for a few minutes, then remove the vanilla bean and pour the browned butter into a medium-sized bowl, scraping the black vanilla seeds and browned butter solids in too. Stir the 3/4 cup sugar into the butter. Gently stir in the eggs; stir in the flour and salt just until blended. Spoon the batter evenly over the apples and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar.

4) Bake until lightly golden and crusty, 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack.

• I made mine in a 9 x 13" baking dish, I suggest using a smaller dish as the recipe suggests.
•This is a creak recipe to have on hand and can definitely be used with other fruit depending on the season.


Anonymous said...

Thank YOU for leaving me that piece behind (hope it was for me..). You made MY day!! Happy Thanksgiving, the cake is delish! xox

Frenchie said...

You're welcome Stefi, it was a special treat for you.

pdc said...

I was one of the very very happy "eater" of this delicious dessert, could not stop
Am going to make it next week for a tea party before going caroling

Karine said...

Your cake sounds delicious! Great combo of flavors. Thanks for sharing :)

Elena said...

Can I have a little, trad of this?? Je ne comprends pas ttes les expressions cullinaires au niveau des dosages.


Sophia said...

Wow, great job here. Awesome picture too! You should really consider submitting this to Recipe4Living's Tasty Thanksgiving Recipe Contest! It looks delicious!