This excellent bit of food porn is brought to you by my white Konishiki tea towel which blocked the flash and allowed me to take a decent picture. Click on it for the large version and drool. ;-)
I've been posting recipes less frequently compared to my earliest posting habits. It's not because I've stopped cooking but rather because most of what I cook has already been written about or is too mundane to mention.
Sometimes you want to make something unusual. Sometimes you want to use up stuff you bought which has been in storage longer than it should. And, sometimes you can wed these two concepts and produce a happy marriage. The pear pine nut cake pictured above is one of those occasions.
I've had a can of pears under my cabinet for a few months and had my husband pick up pine nuts last time he went to Costco. For those who are not initiated into the delights of pine nuts, they are like plump sunflower seeds minus the shell with a buttery, light, almost creamy texture. Imagine a somewhat lighter version of a macadamia nut with a richer depth of flavor from the "pine" portion. They are wonderful plain as a snack or toasted as a garnish or part of a dish. They are commonly sprinkled on salads or used to make pesto. Pine nuts are somewhat expensive and, as far as I know, only available from Costco or import stores in Japan. However, they are worth the effort and expense.
This cake is reminiscent of pineapple upside-down cake without the sugary goo and with a nice crunch from the pine nuts. The cake is very delicate, has a great texture and a more sophisticated and complex flavor than most desserts while still being quite simple. It'd be a nice ending to a meal with coffee or possibly with the right type of wine.
Pear Pine Nut Cake recipe:
1/2 cup butter (softened)
1 cup sugar
2 small eggs
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
2 dashes almond essence
1 tsp. vanilla extract (or 3 dashes of essence)
6 tbsp. plain (unsweetened) yogurt
2 tbsp. milk
1 can pears in syrup (or water if you can get them)
1/2 cup pine nuts
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit or 180 degrees Celsius. Lightly grease a loaf pan or spray it with cooking spray.
Pour the pine nuts into a dry skillet and toast them under low to medium heat until delicately brown on both sides. Turn off the heat and allow them to cool.
Drain the pears and rinse them in cold water. Discard the syrup. Use a paper towel to blot the pears. They will be moist but shouldn't be overly wet. Dice the pears into smallish pieces. Set aside.
Put the softened butter into a large mixing bowl (or use a standing mixer) and mix until creamy. Add the sugar and mix until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and mix again. Add the yogurt, milk, vanilla, salt, baking powder, and almond essence and mix until incorporated. Finally, add the flour and mix until the batter is creamy and smooth.
Fold the pears and pine nuts into the batter. Pour into the greased loaf pan. Bake for 40-50 minutes until a skewer inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs.