clapp pear cake

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Hi guys. I'm here to share a pear cake that I made yesterday. To be honest, I had no intention of writing up a recipe for this, but after posting a few photos of it on my instagram story, the requests for a recipe were tremendous! It was really cool. Keep telling me what recipes you want to see here!

So, the story behind this cake: my brother-in-law and soon-to-be sister-in-law are getting married next weekend (!) and I'm baking the wedding cake (!!) After testing out a few different cakes over the coarse of the past year, I have found a recipe (with a few minor tweaks of my own) for the base of the cake that I really like (and fortunately, they like too). Since deciding on it, I've been finding excuses to practice baking it. As you can imagine, we've been eating a lot of cake around here. 

A few deliciously ripe clapp pears from my CSA gave me my latest excuse. I figured what more delicious than a pear-filled white cake? In fact, two tiers of the wedding cake are going to be filled with a pear compote, so it seemed reminiscent of that too. If you haven't had clapp pears before, when ripe, they are incredibly juicy and sweet, making them a perfect baking pear. They have a really short season though, and bruise really easily, so you don't often find them in grocery stores. If you have a local farm that grows pears, I encourage you to see if they grow them. If you live in the NY area, mine are from Fix Brothers Fruit Farm in Hudson. If you can't find them, just use another small, soft variety of pears (like anjou or bartlett). Avoid firmer pears like bosc or forelle, as their texture isn't right for this.

In any case, this recipe is adapted from Cook's Illustrated white layer cake, with the addition of the pears. The cake has a very delicate crumb - like an angel food cake in the best way possible. The pears sink and almost melt into the cake as it bakes, so every bite is pear-filled and delicious. I topped mine with whipped cream and a sugar / nut topping, but really anything here would be delicious -- ice cream, whipped mascarpone, buttercream, or even just plain.

I should note that since I didn't think I would be posting this recipe, I baked this in an unconventionally-sized cake pan (7.5-inches). I've written the recipe for an 8-inch, as I don't feel the baking time would change that significantly. But, just make sure to test your cake with a toothpick to ensure it is done -- to test, just insert the toothpick into the center of the cake (find a spot without pears); if it comes out clean, you're good to go.


clapp pear cake

serves 6 - 8

 

cake recipe adapted from cook's illustrated white layer cake

 

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan

1 cup + 2 tablespoons (4.5 ounces) cake flour, plus more for dusting the pan

½ cup whole milk, at room temperature

3 large egg whites, at room temperature

1 teaspoon almond extract

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

¾ cup + 2 tablespoons (6.1 ounces) sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

2 ripe clapp pears (or other soft pear variety, like anjou or bartlett), halved and cored

 

for the topping:

¼ cup hazelnuts

1 tablespoon pine nuts

1 tablespoon turbinado sugar

½ cup cream

2 teaspoons confectioner's sugar

 

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch* springform cake pan with butter and line the bottom with parchment paper. Butter the paper and dust the inside of the whole pan with cake flour, tapping out any excess. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk the milk, egg whites, and extracts together until combined. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter and beat on medium, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until the mixture resembles moist crumbs, without powdery streaks of flour. Add all but ¼ cup of the milk mixture and beat on medium for 1 - 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl, add the remaining milk mixture, and beat on medium for another 30 seconds.

Pour the batter into your prepared cake pan and arrange the halved pears on top (cut sides down) so they are evenly spaced. Transfer to the oven and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes*. Allow to cool in the cake pan for 10 - 15 minutes, before releasing the spring and removing. Let cool completely.

Meanwhile, place the hazelnuts on a small baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 6 minutes. Add the pine nuts, return to the oven, and bake for 4 minutes more, or until the nuts are golden and fragrant. Remove and let cool. Once cool, coarsely crush in a mortar + pestle (or coarsely chop with a knife). Add the nuts and turbinado sugar to a small bowl and toss to combine. 

Whip the cream with the confectioner's sugar until soft peaks form (I like to put my cream in a mason jar and shake vigorously until whipped). Top the cooled cake with the cream and sprinkle the nut + sugar mixture over the top. Serve immediately. If you don't plan to eat the whole cake at once, just serve each slice topped with the whipped cream and nuts, rather than the whole cake. 

 

* I baked my cake with a 7.5-inch cake pan. If you have that size, use it, otherwise the baking time shouldn't change much with an 8-inch. 


amaranth porridge with roasted tomatoes

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amaranth porridge with roasted tomatoes

 

serves 2

 

1 shallot, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon mustard seeds

salt

 

12 ounces heirloom and/or cherry tomatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 sprigs oregano, leaves removed

salt

¼ cup walnuts

 

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon amaranth

¼ cup cream

½ teaspoon salt

 

for garnish:

2 sprigs flowering oregano, leaves + blossoms removed

puffed amaranth (recipe below)

cream

 

In a small bowl, combine the sliced shallot, red wine vinegar, olive oil, mustard seeds, and a pinch of salt. Allow to marinate at room temperature while you prepare the tomatoes and amaranth. 

For the tomatoes: preheat the oven to 350°F. Slice any larger cherry tomatoes (if using) in half, and slice any heirloom tomatoes (if using) in ¼-inch slices. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the tomatoes over top. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with the oregano leaves and salt. Bake until softened and slightly caramelized, about 35 minutes. 

Add the walnuts to a separate sheet pan and roast in the 350°F oven for 10 - 12 minutes, or until golden and fragrant. Remove and let cool. Coarsely crush in a mortar + pestle or roughly chop with a knife.

Meanwhile, cook the amaranth: In a medium saucepan, add 1 cup of the amaranth and 2½ cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat and reduce to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered, until the amaranth has absorbed the water and is soft, about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally to keep the amaranth from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add the cream and salt and allow to bubble for 1 - 2 minutes longer. Remove from the heat and stir in the marinating liquid from the shallots (reserve the shallots). Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.

To serve: Spoon the amaranth into 2 shallow bowls. Top with the roasted tomatoes +  juices and marinated shallots. Sprinkle with fresh oregano leaves + blossoms, puffed amaranth, and crushed walnuts. Drizzle with cream and serve immediately.


To puff the amaranth: Heat a small pan over medium-high heat until hot. Test the pan's temperature by flicking a tiny bit of water into the pan. If the water immediately beads into droplets that fly across the pan, it's ready. Add 1 tablespoon of uncooked amaranth and immediately cover the pan. Shake the pan over medium-high heat (the amaranth should start popping within a few seconds), for 20 - 30 seconds. Immediately pour the puffed amaranth into a bowl to keep it from burning. 


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grilled peaches with whipped feta

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A fruit bowl sat on my kitchen counter overflowing with ripe white peaches and I was feeling uninspired at best. Their sweet, sticky smell suggested that if not eaten quickly, it'd be too late. I couldn't risk losing them to the fruit flies. 

So, I reached out to you all looking for ideas. Just a quick ask on Instagram - how are you guys cooking your peaches right now? Your response blew me away -- grilled peaches, roasted peaches, canned peaches, peach pie, peach jam, peach chutney, peach salad, peach kimchi (!) Your eagerness to share your ideas was really awesome. Some of you even took the time to write up your recipes to send to me. I couldn't have been more grateful. I have enough ways to use peaches than I could have ever hoped for, and can't wait to give all of them a try.

Today, I felt most inspired to grill. It is one of my favorite ways to eat peaches, and I feel like I seem to forget about it every summer. So thank you to those of you who reminded me. Most of you who suggested grilling also suggested some sort of dairy -- ricotta, ice cream, greek yogurt, whipped cream -- which seemed perfect (you don't have to twist my arm with dairy). I decided to try a whipped feta, which I thought would pair really nicely with the sweet peaches. It definitely did. 

I hope this recipe inspires you as much as you all inspired me. Happy peach season.

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grilled peaches with whipped feta

 

serves 2

 

for the feta

2 ounces (60g) feta cheese

¼ cup cream

3 tablespoons whole milk

squeeze of lemon juice (about ½ tsp)

salt, if needed

 

2 tablespoons pine nuts

¼ cup hazelnuts

2 peaches, halved + pitted

olive oil 

flaky salt

fennel pollen (optional)

toasted sourdough, for serving (optional)

 

To make the feta: crumble the feta into a blender. Add the cream and milk and blend until just smooth. Spoon the whipped feta into a bowl and season with a squeeze of lemon juice and a pinch of salt, if needed. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Arrange the hazelnuts and pine nuts on opposite ends of a sheet pan. Toast until the pine nuts are fragrant and golden, about 4 - 5 minutes. Remove the pine nuts from the sheet pan and return the hazelnuts to the oven until also fragrant, about 5 - 6 minutes longer. Remove and let cool.

Preheat a grill (or grill pan) on medium-high heat. Brush the grill grate and lightly drizzle the halved peaches with olive oil. Once hot, add the peaches, cut-side down to the hot grill and reduce the flame to medium. Grill until lightly charred, about 5 minutes. Flip and cook for another 3 minutes. Remove the peaches and sprinkle with flaky salt.

In a mortar and pestle, crush the pine nuts until coarsely ground (alternatively, you can finely chop with a knife). Roughly chop the hazelnuts. Spoon the whipped feta into two shallow bowls and top with the grilled peaches. Sprinkle with the pine nuts, hazelnuts, and fennel pollen (if desired). Enjoy as is, or serve with toasted sourdough bread for some extra heft. 

pearl barley risotto with wild mushrooms and peas

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After what seemed to be a particularly long winter, the sun has finally emerged here in New York (of course, with a fair share of rainy spring days along with it). Henry and I have been working furiously at our house, trying to get ready to move in next month. It has been a long, trying process - one with many obstacles and countless frustrations. Though, we are finally seeing the promise of a light at the end of the tunnel this spring, which feels fitting amid a season of new beginnings. 

I love this time of year - the weddings, parties, and time spent outside with family and friends; the abundant color at the farmer's markets, marking the end of the grays and browns of a Northeast winter. Everything feels alive and fresh, and the inspiration is endless. 

This Friday marks National Pinot Grigio Day, and in that spirit I've partnered with Cavit Wines to bring you a spring-inspired pearl barley risotto that pairs beautifully with their crisp Pinot Grigio. The risotto is cooked slowly with a simple, homemade vegetable stock (though if in a pinch, store-bought vegetable stock will do), and finished with a bit of cream and mascarpone cheese for richness and heft. The pearl barley adds a subtle nuttiness and is topped with bright, spring greens, peas, and seared mushrooms. It is fit for a dinner party, but it's one-pan preparation makes it a simple enough dinner for a weeknight. Serve it alongside a chilled glass of Cavit Pinot Grigio one of these warm, spring nights and enjoy.

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pearl barley risotto with wild mushrooms and peas

This risotto is a true spring meal. The subtle nuttiness of the pearl barley is cooked slowly in an aromatic vegetable broth until tender and finished with a bit of cream and mascarpone for richness. It is topped with bright, spring greens and peas and seared wild mushrooms. The stock can be made ahead, and any leftovers can be frozen for another use. Store-bought stock will do, although I encourage you to make it yourself if you have the time - it really only requires a few minutes of chopping the leftovers of your vegetable drawer, and otherwise just bubbles away on its own. Its beautiful, delicate flavor only enhances the risotto. 

 

serves 2 - 4

 

for the broth:

1 tablespoon olive oil 

5 carrots, peeled + cut into medium chunks

4 stalks of celery, cut into medium chunks

1 onion, peeled + cut into medium chunks

4 garlic cloves, crushed + peeled

mushroom trimmings (optional)

½ teaspoon black peppercorns

2 bay leaves

handful fresh parsley with stems

handful thyme sprigs

 

Add the olive oil to stock pot over medium heat. Add the carrots, celery, onion, garlic, mushroom trimmings (if using), peppercorns, and bay leaves and sauté until just starting to soften, but not brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the parsley and thyme sprigs and 2 ½ quarts of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, and reduce to a simmer.

Simmer, uncovered, until broth is flavorful, about 1 - 1 ½ hours. Remove from heat, strain, and discard solids. 

 

for the risotto:

4 cups vegetable broth (recipe above)

3 cups water

4 tablespoons olive oil 

2 cups mixed wild mushrooms, trimmed 

coarse salt

½ yellow onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 cup (185g) pearl barley

½ cup dry white wine

¼ cup fresh English peas

¼ cup shaved parmesan, plus more for serving

¼ cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese

zest of 1 lemon

freshly cracked black pepper

 

for serving:

mixed greens (I used watercress and purple frill)

olive oil 

coarse salt

hazelnuts, toasted + chopped

 

To make the risotto: Add the broth and water to a large saucepan and keep warm over low heat. 

In a large cast iron skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Once hot, add the mushrooms and sauté, moving only once or twice, until browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and remove from the heat. Transfer the mushrooms to a plate, and set aside.

Return the pan to medium heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the chopped onion and season generously with salt. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until softened and just beginning to brown, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the barley and stir to combine. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until toasted, about 3 minutes. Add the wine and simmer, stirring frequently, until almost completely evaporated. Add ½ cup of the warm stock mixture and cook, again stirring frequently, until almost completely evaporated. Continue in this fashion, adding broth ½ cup at a time, until the barley is tender and only ½ cup of broth remains (this should take about 50 minutes - 1 hour). Stir in the peas, mushrooms, and remaining ½ cup of broth and simmer until peas are just tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the parmesan, heavy cream, and mascarpone and allow to bubble for about 1 minute longer. (The risotto should be loose, but not soupy. Add more water if you wish to thin it, or let it simmer for a few minutes longer if you find it to be too loose). Stir in the lemon zest, freshly cracked black pepper, and season with salt to taste, to finish. 

To serve, dress the mixed greens lightly with olive oil and season with salt. Spoon the risotto into shallow bowls and top each with a handful of greens, chopped hazelnuts, and parmesan shavings.  Enjoy immediately.

 

This post was sponsored by Cavit, but as always, all opinions are my own.