21 December 2009

Spiced Pear Upside-Down Gingerbread Cake

Pear Upside-Down Gingerbread Cake
Just last Thursday I was able to finally meet the lovely Jen Yu in person, after envying those who were able to attend the recent food blogger conferences. I actually thought I was a little more fortunate since we were able to spend quality time, even if only for a few hours. (My idea of a perfect time would be zooming through San Francisco in search of the best Asian food, heh heh :) From reading her blog and watching her actually speak on video you can tell she's quite engaging, but it wasn't until I met her that I confirmed what others have been saying about her-- her vivacity is infectious. I suppose we all have to exercise a bit of restraint in blogland, so meeting Jen was more awesome than I could have expected.

It reminded me of the time I met Allen and he told me, "You're exactly like how I imagined you." I wondered if that was a good thing. (In case you're wondering, Allen exercises much more restraint in his writing and in person he is a riot.)

One thing I don't think comes through in my writing, by its nature, is that I am a total listener in person. I think sometimes it makes me come across as shy but in truth I want to devote all my attention to the person I'm talking to. As for my stories, well, they're about as openly weird as you read on my blog.

And then of course there's that other side to me, the physician, with which only a few of you have communicated (usually via e-mail or twitter, when you have specific questions). I'd like to think that whatever personality I convey isn't too far from how I deal with patients (I doubt they will want to hear my inane stories).

Does your personality markedly differ from your writing?

Anyway, I just wanted to share a few thoughts about the movie The Mirror Has Two Faces. It's actually pretty good (CHICK FLICK!) and I've watched it a few times, but there are some moments that have stuck out to me as so-bad-it's-good, thanks in no small part to Streisand's directing.
1. When Jeff Bridges takes his sport coat off in class, his students lick their fingers. Hilarious.
2. We're supposed to believe that he thinks Barbra Streisand is so hot he can't see straight. (Was he supposed to be a virgin?)
3. When Barbra Streisand finally shows her cleavage in class, her slack-jawed students drool. WTF
4. The night they almost have sex, the orchestra swells dramatically as Streisand throws a towel on the mirror, so she doesn't see her "hideous" face. So '50s!
5. Jeff Bridges marveling at the handheld visual representation of the orchestra like a lunatic. I wanted to punch him.
6. No one mentioning that Streisand with the refried hair is actually a step back from down-to-earth, "natural" Streisand.

Please check out a message from Duncan, editor of The Gastronomer's Bookshelf, and get to see the books released this year that have impressed us the most, as well as the one that disappointed me the most!

Spiced Pear Upside-Down Gingerbread Cake from Gingerbread
This is the third gingerbread cake in my series (see the awesome Claire Clark one and the pretty good Rose Levy Beranbaum one). It was okay -- my favorite part was the pears and the cake immediately under it, but I thought the cake itself was too light, soft, and fairly dry. I think since Miette and Claire Clark I now want all my gingerbread to be dense and damp. A word of advice on upside-down cakes: If you are overlapping the fruit, don't be impressed if you make a beautiful design as you're preparing the cake. It means the design when you flip it won't be pretty. Rather construct the top keeping the flipside in mind, so that means making sure the convexity of the pear surface is covered by the pear slice on top of it. In not so many words:


  • 100g (1/2 cup packed) brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 28g (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 medium (about 530g) Bosc pears, peeled, cored, and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick slices
  • 170g (1-1/3 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 85g (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 70g (1/3 cup packed) dark brown sugar
  • 170g (1/2 cup) molasses
  • 1 large egg
  • 120g (1/2 cup) whole milk

Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F). Spray a 23cm (9-inch) round cake pan with baking spray, then line the bottom with parchment cut to fit exactly (I know it's an upside-down cake, but I like the insurance).

For the pears: In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and ginger. Pour the melted butter into the pan and swirl so the bottom is evenly coated. Sprinkle the sugar mixture evenly on top. Arrange the pear slices over this as described above.

For the cake: In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. In another large mixing bowl, beat the butter, cinnamon, and ginger together until smooth. Add the brown sugar and beat until fluffy. Add the molasses and beat until well-combined. Beat in the egg until smooth. Stir in the flour gently in three additions, alternating with half of the milk at a time. Pour the batter over the pears and bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then run a thin knife along the edge, place a serving platter on top and invert the whole set-up. Remove the pan and serve at room temperature (or warm).

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