Showing posts with label quick dessert. Show all posts
Showing posts with label quick dessert. Show all posts

Monday, January 31, 2011

Skillet Caramelized Pear Cake

I have friends who think I never have kitchen disasters. Hah! I'll never forget the blueberry bread that was so bad that even desperately hungry squirrels and raccoons turned their noses up at it. Nevertheless I keep trying new things. Sometimes they work, sometimes not so much.

Yesterday, Sunday dinner with Mom was looming, but I couldn't find a recipe for what I had in mind. In this case, I happened to have two pears that I was determined to use, a small oval cast iron skillet that Santa brought, and precious little time for baking.

I'll admit that I had serious doubts about how this might turn out. It exceeded our expectations. This one is a keeper and a recipe I'll be making often. Not only does it taste great, but it's very pretty, too. Apples could readily be substituted for pears, and I suspect that a mixture of apples and pears would work as well. My cast iron skillet is 9.5 inches by 7 inches for reference purposes. A small round skillet should work fine.

Skillet Caramelized Pear Cake

2 pears

1/4 cup canola or olive oil (not one with intense flavor)
1 egg
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
1/3 cup milk

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
1/3 cup light brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350.

Peel, core, and slice the pears. Toss with a squeeze or two of lemon so they don't turn brown.

Place the oil, egg, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cardamom, and vanilla in a mixing bowl and beat or whisk together. Alternate adding flour and milk until everything is blended. Set aside.

On the stove top, melt the butter with the light brown sugar in the skillet. Position the pear slices on top of the mixture, crowding them a little bit. Pour the batter over the pears and slide the skillet into the oven. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Flip over onto serving platter.

Serve warm with creme fraiche or lightly sweetened whipped cream.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Elegant Dessert in Minutes

One of my favorite desserts is based on meringue. It's fun, delicious, and, as my mother would say, good enough for company. The very best thing about it is that you can have it ready at a minute's notice. When relatives visited once, I was busy showing and driving them around, which left little time for cooking. Meringue nests saved the day. I pulled them out of the freezer and had a fabulous dessert in minutes. Of course, you do have to bake the meringues in advance!

Anyone who has read The Diva Runs Out of Thyme knows that baking meringues isn't a rainy day activity. Meringues need to dry out, and humid weather can make them sticky. Crisp fall days are a great time to bake them and pop them in the freezer for those busy days when you need a dessert fast!

Meringue Nests

3 large egg whites at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Grease and flour a baking sheet, or (my preference) cover a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper. If you are very precise, you can draw circles on the paper as guides, but I'm the world's worst artist and I do it freehand.

Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in a mixing bowl and beat. When the eggs begin to take shape, slowly add the sugar and beat until they hold stiff peaks.

Spoon the egg white mixture into a pastry bag with a tip that has a fairly large hole. Don't have a pastry bag? Snip the corner of a plastic food storage bag and use it instead. Pipe the mixture onto the paper. I find it easiest to begin in the middle and pipe in circles until it's approximately three inches in diameter. Then, to make the nest, I pipe one more circle around the top of the outer circle. So simple! Three eggs make approximately one dozen 3 inch-ish nests. Have just a tiny bit left? Pipe a few dots to snack on!

Bake the nests for one hour or until dry and crisp, but not blond. My preference is to turn the oven off after one hour and leave them in the closed oven overnight.

One of the best features of meringue is that it freezes so beautifully. Peel them off the parchment paper and slide the nests into freezer bags. If you want to stack them within the bag, use a bit of the parchment paper (reuse the one you used to bake them) in between layers. But don't crowd them, they're fragile. Freeze until ready to use.


meringue nests
ice cream
whipped cream (optional)
frozen raspberries, thawed

Remove the requisite number of meringue nests from the freezer bag. Top each with a scoop of ice cream. (Go with your personal preference here. It's great with vanilla, coffee, and chocolate, but I can imagine it with all kinds of ice creams.) Top with a dollop of whipped cream (optional). Spoon thawed frozen raspberries and a little juice over top (you may need to add some sugar to the thawed raspberries, they have a tendency to be a little bit tart). If you're feeling very ambitious, you can make a blueberry or cherry reduction, but our family favorite has always been raspberries.