It must have been giddiness from high-country air or overindulgence on pork from the weekend-long, West Virginia hog roast that put it into my head that I should cart home a couple of bushels of pears from the Turner family tree. Aged on its literal last limb, the 20-foot tree was in full-on production glory. I just could not let all that fruit go to waste.
Back to reality and my small kitchen, I now face a mountain of ripening pears. If I had any sense, I’d make pear butter and call it a day. Instead, I am off and rolling on multiple recipes where pears are the star—though, to date, hardly in sufficient quantity to whittle down the mass I have.
First up, a brioche cake: buttery yeast dough topped with fruit, spices and a little cream cheese topping. Not too sweet or time-consuming (except for the first dough rise), this cake is a satisfying breakfast treat, different from the usual morning Danish and a nice showcase for fruit. It is best the day it is made, but my workmates had few complaints when I brought it into the office the following morning.
For the cake, and deviating slightly from this St. Louis Post-Dispatch recipe, a take on that city’s classic Gooey Butter Cake, I caramelized the chopped pears with a tablespoon of butter, a tablespoon of brown sugar and a strong teaspoon of ground ginger (along with the cardamom) and spooned the fruit mixture on top of the dough—instead of covering it with raw pears.
A frangipane tart topped with sliced pears (tossed first with a little rum and granulated sugar) comprised the next baking foray. The tart, its almond filling setting off the crispy fruit, made for a fine close to a recent vegetarian feast.
Of course, I have not even made a dent in the cornucopia of fruit in my fridge. I am thinking a savory dish (pork and pears?) might be in order next. There are only so many pear-themed desserts I can foist upon my friends. Right?