Sunday, April 13, 2014

Martha Stewart's Pear Spice Bundt Cake

         This past weekend, Andrew finally made it out to the Beach for the weekend.  The Real Estate selling season in New York has made it just about impossible for him to take time here since President’s Day.  To Andrew, a weekend in the country means a chance to bake.  And Saturday he chose to make a cake that would make a wonderful addition to a Passover Seder or an Easter Dinner table. I know I'm too late for Passover but this is in time for Easter.  Ripe pears are combined with a set of spices to create a lushly moist, honey and brown-sugar cake that’s then topped off with two toppings: A cream cheese glaze with a hint of lemon and pear ‘chips’ that are as pretty as they taste.  It’s from “Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook” (Clarkson Potter), her 2005 ode to all things sweet. 

Our 30year old Bundt Pan
This is a Bundt cake, which means it automatically looks flawless with its well-defined shape molded in the Bundt pan.  The Bundt cake’s heritage can be traced back to a fruit cake called a Gugelhupf which was popular in Jewish communities in Germany, Austria and Poland. But it is in Northern Germany that Gugelhupf is known by the name “Bundkuchen” – ‘kuchen’ meaning cake and…’Bund’ meaning.... Here lies another one of cooking’s great debates.  Some food historians believe 'Bund' 
means ‘bunch’ or ‘bundle’ and refers to the way the dough is ‘bundled’ around the center of the tubed pan.  Others think that the banded look of the finished cake suggests a bundle of wheat.  Finally, there’s a school of thought that ‘Bund’ refers to a group of people and that ‘Bundkuchen’ is so-called because it’s a great party cake for a sizable gathering of people.  
Ella Helfrich
and her prize
winning cake
In this country, the credit for popularizing the Bund Cake goes to a pair of Minnesota brothers, the Dalquists, who owned a cookware enterprise called “Nordic Ware” and to an entrant in the annual Pillsbury Bake-Off.  First the brothers: At the request of two ladies of the Hadassah in Minneapolis, the Dalquists were asked if they could produce a modern version of the traditional cast iron Gugelhupf pan.  They produced a cast aluminum version and in order to trademark it added the “T” to the Bund.  The first Bundt cake pans were a bust in sales.  Then, a woman named Ella Helfrich came in second at the 1966 Pillsbury Bakeoff with her recipe for a Bundt cake called “Tunnel of Fudge”.  Ms. Helfrich walked off with the $5000. Prize. But the real winners were the Dalquist Brothers.  There were more than 200,000 requests for Bundt pans and soon the pan itself surpassed the Jell-O mold as the most sold pan in the US.  Then in the 70s, Pillsbury licensed the name “Bundt” from Nordic Ware and began selling a whole series of Bundt Cake mixes.  
         I must have been one of the original customers both for the cake mixes and the Bundt pan.  It was quite easy to produce a photo-worthy cake with minimal effort.  And apparently I was not alone: To date more than 60,000,000 Bundt cake pans have been sold. There’s even a National Bundt Cake Day, which falls on November 15th. So while we may be a few months late, this recipe for Bundt Cake is reason to celebrate this week.  As long and complex as the recipe is, Andrew assures me that the steps are simple. There are just quite a few of them. So go ahead, make the cake.  Here is the recipe.

Martha Stewart’s Recipe for Pear Spice Bundt Cake
Makes one 10-inch cake. Feeds a bund.

1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 pounds (about 5) ripe Bartlett pears, peeled, cored, and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 3/4 cups packed dark-brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
4 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
Cream Cheese Glaze, recipe follows.
Pear Chips, for garnish

In a saucepan, spread granulated sugar in an even layer. Cook over medium-high heat, without stirring, until sugar around edge of pan melts and begins to turn golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, slowly stir until all sugar has melted and mixture is translucent and golden.

Add pear chunks to caramel, and stir to coat. Cook, covered, over low heat until very soft, 6 to 8 minutes, swirling pan occasionally. 

Using a potato masher, mash pears until they are broken down but still slightly chunky. Continue cooking, uncovered, 5 minutes more, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; let cool completely.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 10-inch (12-cup capacity) Bundt pan, tapping out excess. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, baking soda, pepper, and nutmeg; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, brown sugar, and honey on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined after each addition. With mixer on the lowest speed, add flour mixture in two batches, alternating with milk and beginning and ending with flour. 
Add reserved pear sauce and mix to combine, about 1 minute, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Do not overmix.

Spoon batter into prepared pan and smooth with a small offset spatula. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until cake is a deep golden brown and a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool slightly. 

Invert cake onto a wire rack set over a piece of parchment paper and allow to cool 10 minutes. Once cool, pour the glaze over the top, letting some drip down the sides. Alternatively, dust with confectioners' sugar. Garnish with pear chips, if using.

While the cake is baking, make the Pear Chips:

1 cup sugar
1 small underripe Bartlett pear
1 lemon, halved

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat (such as a Silpat); set aside.
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine sugar with 1 cup water. Bring to a boil; cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar has dissolved, about 8 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low; keep at a simmer as you proceed.

Using a mandoline or a very sharp knife, slice pear lengthwise as thinly as possible; make sure that each slice remains intact and is uniformly thick. Do not worry about removing seeds or the core (they soften during baking). Squeeze lemon halves over pear slices, coating both sides with juice. 

Place slices in simmering syrup; cook 2 minutes. 

Remove slices with a slotted spoon and place on the prepared baking sheet about 1 inch apart.

Bake pear slices until they are dry to the touch, about 2 hours. Using a small offset spatula, loosen edges of slices; use your hands to peel pears from the sheet, then flip them over. Return pears to oven; bake, checking frequently, until chips are completely dry and crisp (but not browned), about 20 minutes.

To make the Cream Cheese Glaze:

4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons milk, plus more if needed

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add sugar and beat until combined, about 1 minute. Add salt, lemon juice, and milk; mix on low speed until smooth. If glaze is too thick to drizzle, add more milk, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Finally, pour glaze over cake. Garnish with Pear Chips. Serve and take a bow.

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