Sunday, October 19, 2014

Pie for Dad

My father turned 80 years old. He is a pie guy. Like me, he has rarely met a sweet he won't eat, but when asked what he wants for his birthday dessert nine times out of ten he will choose pie. Of course cake is the usual birthday fair, but it is always nice to mix it up a little. He isn't picky. He likes all kinds of pie, but Cherry and Apple are among his favorites along with Coconut Cream, Pecan, Raisin, Lemon Meringue, and Peach, the list goes on and on. 

Cherry Pie

My father has been blessed with a long, happy, healthy life and in the process he has blessed us in more ways than are imaginable. He has a loving wife (our mother) of 57 years, two adoring daughters (myself included) and four thankful grandchildren who affectionately refer to him as 'the chief' because is the head of our clan. His deep Christian faith, quiet strength, and abundant and unconditional love is the backbone of our family. He has taught us so many things from basic car or home maintenance and financial responsibility to the power of perseverance and the benefit of kindness. He has sat through countless hours of sporting events and dance competitions and recitals all without complaint, always lending his gentle support. He listens way more than he speaks which is not a common trait in our family. But when he speaks it is usually important. He is the calmest and most patient person I have ever known. If we were all more like my father our world would be a much better place. 

Roasted Apple Pie

My father gives way more than he receives, so it is a small thing to make him pie for his birthday. It is a task I welcome and enjoy. But instead of re-creating the wheel I made a Cherry Pie I have made for him on several occasions. It is from a previous post and based on a recipe from my mother's recipe file. When one pie is good, two are better, especially when feeding a crowd, so I made this Roasted Apple Pie also from a previous post, because it is autumn and I love all things roasted during this time of year. Happy Birthday Dad! May you be blessed as abundantly as you have blessed us.

My parents enjoying their golden years!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Pear Upside-Down Ginger Cake

Many years ago I was at a dinner party in San Francisco on a chilly autumn night. Not only was the host a gifted graphic designer he was also a fabulous cook. At the end of the meal he whipped up a very quick dessert of caramelized bananas with ginger served over vanilla ice cream. It was the first time I had experienced fresh ginger, and I can still remember the explosion of flavor. 

Now I eat ginger fresh and dried all year long, but it is particularly appealing during the fall especially when paired with ripe autumn fruit like Bosc pears. I love the texture, flavor, and sweetness of Bosc pears. They hold up so nicely when baked and they have a depth of flavor that lends nicely to warm autumn spices.

A play on the classic upside-down cake this rustic version combines two of my favorite autumn flavors: pears and fresh ginger. But nice crisps apples would be a delicious substitute if pears aren't your thing. Or if you don't have ripe pears on hand.

While I baked the cake in an iron skillet, if you prefer a more refined look it can be baked in a regular cake pan or a spring-form pan. If using a spring-form pan wrap the outside with aluminum foil to catch any possible run-away juices from the pears.

If you can not find Lyle's Golden Syrup either increase the molasses or the brown sugar by a 1/4 cup (60 ml or 60 g). The cake is a snap to make and is tasty at any time of day.

Pear Upside-Down Ginger Cake
makes a 9-inch (23 cm) or 10-inch (25 cm) cake

2 cups (280 g) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely grated or minced 
1/2 cup (4 ounces/113 g) unsalted butter 
1/2 cup (125 ml) molasses
1/4 cup (63 ml) Lyle's Golden Syrup
1/2 cup (120 g) brown sugar (light or dark), firmly packed
2 eggs
3/4 cup (180 ml) boiling water
2-3 Bosc pears or other firm pears
2 tablespoons (1 ounce/30 g) salted or unsalted butter (for the pan), at room temperature
1-2 tablespoons (15-30 g) granulated sugar (for the pan)

Preheat the oven to 350℉ (175℃). Using the 2 tablespoons of room temperature butter generously coat a 9-inch (23 cm) or 10-inch (25 cm) iron skillet then sprinkle liberally with 1-2 tablespoons (15-30 g) of granulated sugar. If it isn't all needed you can leave the extra in the bottom of the pan or dump it out. (A regular 9-inch (23 cm) or 10-inch (25 cm) cake pan or spring-form pan may be substituted for the skillet if desired. If using a spring-form pan wrap the outside with aluminum foil in case the pears are very juicy.)

Peel, core, and cut each pear into quarters. Slice each quarter into 3-4 slices. Line prepared skillet (or cake pan) with pear slices in a spiral pattern. 

In a bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside. In a large saucepan melt the butter with the fresh ginger stirring for a minute or two. Add the molasses, Lyle's Golden Syrup, and brown sugar. Stir to incorporate. Whisk in the flour mixture followed by the eggs, then the boiling water making sure all ingredients are combined.

Pour the batter over the pears and bake in the middle of the oven for 35-40 minutes until a tester comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes before inverting the cake onto a plate. Serve warm or at room temperature. (If using a cake pan or spring-form pan allow the cake to cool completely before removing from the pan.) The cake can be stored covered at room temperature for a day or two. Refrigerate for longer storage.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes with Maple Butter

I think pumpkin is a vegetable (technically it is a fruit) that people either love or hate. I happen to love it. When the leaves begin to change color and autumn is on the way I crave pumpkin in both sweet and savory forms. Perhaps subconsciously I desire it for its nutritional value, although I'm not sure how far that goes once you add sugar and butter. But everything in moderation, right? That is the key as my mother always says.

As I mentioned in my Sautéed Apple Cake post I have been baking with white whole wheat flour a lot lately. So I used it in the Pumpkin Spice Pancakes, but regular all-purpose flour is fine. I think spices really enhance pumpkin's flavor, so I added cinnamon and a good pinch of ground nutmeg, cloves, and ginger. Feel free to use any warm spices you desire or omit them if you prefer. 

Folding in a whipped egg white lightens the batter and keeps the pancakes tall and fluffy. The recipe can easily be doubled. (Left-over pancakes can be gently warmed in the oven or microwave.) Serve the spicy pancakes with a generous dollop of maple butter, additional maple syrup, and Applewood-smoked bacon. What could be a better autumn breakfast?

Note: all milk or all buttermilk can be substituted if you don't have one or the other.

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes with Maple Butter
makes approximately 20 - 2 1/2 inch (6.5 cm) pancakes

1 cup (140 g) white whole wheat flour or all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons (45 g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
a generous pinch each of ground nutmeg, ground cloves, and ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (120 g) canned pumpkin purée
1 egg
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces/45 g) salted or unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup (125 ml) buttermilk
1/2 cup (125 ml) milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg white
additional butter to fry the pancakes

For the pancakes - In a bowl whisk the flour, baking powder, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and salt to combine. In another bowl stir together the pumpkin purée, the egg, melted butter, buttermilk, milk, and vanilla. Pour into the flour mixture and stir gently just until combined. 

Beat the egg white with a whisk or hand mixer until it holds a soft peak. (If the pancake batter seems too stiff add a little more milk or buttermilk before adding the beaten egg white.) Carefully fold the egg white into the pancake mixture to lighten the batter. Be careful not to over-mix.

Melt a generous amount of butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Drop large spoonfuls of pancake batter into the hot pan and allow to brown before turning over. Cook on each side about 2-3 minutes until the pancakes are cooked through. Repeat with remaining batter adding more butter with each batch. Keep finished pancakes in a warm oven until ready to serve.

To serve - top pancakes with a dollop of maple butter. Serve with additional maple syrup.

Maple Butter

4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60 g) salted or unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure maple syrup
additional maple syrup to serve with the pancakes

For the maple butter - Put the butter in a bowl and whip lightly with a fork or whisk. Add the maple syrup and continue to stir to incorporate.