Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thanksgiving Desserts Fit for the FEAST: Pear Almondine Cheesecake with Cardamom & Pear Cranberry Cake with Caramel Glaze

I'm not necessarily a huge fan of desserts, but over the years I've gathered a few recipes that always seem to work and bring rave reviews from the Pilgrims and Indians. This year I'm throwing a couple of new recipes into the mix for review. We'll see how they hold up to the scrutiny of the 'table'.
The first is a cheesecake, one of my personal dessert favorites. That means it's very difficult for me to turn down a piece if offered, but I want it to be the real deal. This is Pear Almondine with Cardamom. It has flavor layers, as well as texture layers which make it an interesting dessert offering.
The second recipe was a surprise to me. I was looking for a quick, easy dessert, and at the same time mourning the end of Gourmet Magazine. As I flipped through the last issue I read over the Pear Cranberry Cake with Caramel Glaze. It was quick, not much fuss, so I proceeded without huge expectations. The only change I made in the recipe was to use dried cranberries rather than fresh, and I plumped them in simmering spiced rum. It turned out to be quite a satisfying cake with lots of flavor. I particularly loved the hint of nutmeg hiding somewhere in the flavor layers. And the Caramel Glaze is was hard not to eat it with a spoon. If you'd like to bake the cake early, you could freeze it, and then prepare the glaze just before serving.

I'll let you know if these two desserts make the cut and join Pumpkin Bread Pudding and Chocolate Pecan Tart as Thanksgiving regulars!

Pear Almondine Cheesecake with Cardamon

2 cups amaretti cookie crumbs (about 7 oz. of cookies—place in zip lock, and crush with rolling pin)

4 T melted butter

2 firm pears, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

One-half teaspoon cardamom

4 oz. Almond paste, diced into small pieces

3 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, room temperature

One and one-fourth cups sugar

One-fourth cup all purpose flour

3 eggs

One-half cup sour cream

1 T Frangelica or 1 T almond extract

One-half cup sliced almonds

1 T butter, melted

One-fourth cup sugar

Combine cookie crumbs and butter. With extra butter, grease a spring-form pan, and firmly press crumb mixture in bottom, and about one inch up the sides. Tip: use a measuring cup to press the crumbs.

Bake at 350° for 8 minutes; cool.

Toss pear slices in cardamon. Place pear slices in a swirl design, in two layers, over crust. Sprinkle diced pieces of almond paste over pears. Set aside. (The pear slices remain firm and add a nice flavor and texture to the cooked and cooled cheesecake.)

Add cream cheese to mixer bowl and mix until light and fluffy. Add sugar gradually with mixer still running and then flour. You may need to stop mixer and scrape down sides of bowl. Finally, add eggs one at a time, beating after each just until combined. Don't over-mix Fold in sour cream and Frangelica (or almond extract).

Pour cheese mixture over pears. Toss almonds with melted butter, then add sugar and toss to coat. Sprinkle almonds evenly over top of cheese mixture.

Tip: Place cake pan of hot water in bottom of oven. This will add moisture to oven and prevent cheesecake from cracking while cooling.

Place cheesecake into oven on middle rack. Reduce oven temperature to 325°, and bake for 65 minutes. Crack oven door open, turn oven off, and let cake rest for 15 minutes.

Remove cake from oven, place on cooling race, run a knife around edges of pan to loosen cake and keep it from sticking to pan, and let cake completely cool.

Cover cake and place in refrigerator for at least 8 hours before serving—or freeze, and serve slightly chilled—it tastes great as a semi-frozen dessert and thaws quickly!

Pear Cranberry Cake

Gourmet | November 2009

by Ian Knauer

For cake:

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1 3/4 cups sugar

1 1/4 cups vegetable oil

4 large eggs

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

3 Bosc pears (1 1/2 pounds), cut into 3/4-inch pieces

1 cup cranberries, thawed if frozen (I used 1 cup dried cranberries, plumped in warm spiced rum, and drained)

For glaze:

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 (3-inch-long) cinnamon sticks

Equipment: a 10-by 4-inch angel food cake pan or a 15- cup Bundt pan

Make cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter cake pan.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and spices.

Beat together sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla with an electric mixer until combined well.

At low speed, mix in pears and cranberries, then mix in flour mixture until incorporated.

Spoon batter into pan.

Bake until a wooden pick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.

Cool in pan 30 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool completely.

Make glaze:

Bring cream, brown sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, cinnamon sticks, and a pinch of salt to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring occasionally, then simmer until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.

Cool glaze 5 minutes. Discard cinnamon sticks, then pour glaze over cake, letting some drip down sides.

1 comment:

  1. This is one that I plan to make....very soon. Maybe next week!!