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.
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.
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.