It's pear season, and we have them and then some. Our own Bartletts and d'Anjous, and Dad's exotic varieties from Australia and Germany - Peckham's Triumph, Forelle, and others I can't name. They say that the Boscs are the best for cooking, and I can't honestly dispute that, but we don't have any of those this year and with 40 pounds of free pears in the fridge, I'm not buying any!
This pear cake was inspired by a recipe of Mom's for a tea bread - after reading it, it struck me that it looked a lot like my carrot cake recipe. I will post the recipe as soon as I write it out, but if you use a carrot cake recipe, just substitute ripe diced pears for the carrot, and reduce the sugar by about 25%. Everything else stays the same. You could also substitute ginger and nutmeg for the cinnamon that is usually called for, and of course you could use pecans instead of walnuts. Leave OUT the coconut, pineapple and raisins that some heathens put in their carrot cakes.
My all time favorite pear recipe is French Pear Pie - an odd little pie crust made with oil and milk, filled with wine-poached pears, gingered sour cream, and topped with a nutmeg-scented crumble topping. It's a bit involved, what with all the different components - I usually make the crust and poach the pears the night before, then make the sour cream and crumble topping the day I bake it. It is pretty easy if you make the crust in the food processor first, then make the crumble topping, then make the sour cream filling, reusing the bowl without having to clean it.
2 cups sugar
juice of half a lemon
4 bosc pears, peeled, halved and cored
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon milk
9 tablespoons vegetable oil
Sour Cream Filling:
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1½ cups sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup chilled butter
Poach pears. Combine wine, sugar and lemon and boil 10 minutes, add pear halves and simmer 10-30 minutes until they pierce easily with a knife. Remove pears and reserve liquid for reuse.
Make pastry. Stir flour and salt together in a bowl. Combine milk and oil but don't stir. Pour all at once into flour. Mix and form into two balls. Roll half the dough out between two sheets of waxed paper – do not try this any other way or the dough will fall apart – and fit it into a 9-inch pie pan. Freeze the other half for use another time or make two pies.
Prepare filling by mixing all ingredients together.
Prepare topping by mixing dry ingredients and cutting in butter until mealy.
Arrange pear halves in crust. Pour on filling and sprinkle topping over. Bake at 400°F for 25-30 minutes or until pie is golden brown. Do not overbake.
This is Billie Moreland's recipe from her restaurant in Spokane. I waitressed there my senior year in college and was captivated by her desserts. She never gave out recipes, so I was thrilled to find this in a cookbook 11 years later. It was a favorite of customers when she made it and it was always cut into 6 enormous pieces – I think it actually serves 8 unless no one has had anything else to eat.
Empirical testing has shown that pears poached in wine, even crummy wine you wouldn't drink, taste far better than pears poached in water - even if you dress the water up with lemon juice and sugar. Since we make our own wine, we have a fairly reliable supply of not-so-great bottles, extremely suitable for cooking. But a $4.99 bottle of Riesling or a $2 bottle of any kind of white from Trader Joe's is perfect, I promise. Heck, take a small glass for yourself if you want - the pears won't miss it!