People Make Publishing: Pear cake, anyone?

Rob Buchanan is the sales coordinator in the marketing department. 

For the last couple of years I have gone on a fishing trip to Lake of the Woods in northern Minnesota the week of Labor Day.  My friends and I have had great luck and we have each brought back a couple of large walleye.  I was looking forward to using the walleye recipe from our book Fried Walleye and Cherry Pie by Peggy Wolff to cook the fish.  Unfortunately, the trip didn’t happen this year.  Not only was I left without any walleye, I had an unfulfilled desire to make something I had never made before using one of the cookbooks we have published.  I had good luck previously with a recipe for bubble and squeak from Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book, so I pulled out her other book, Jane Grigson’s Fruit Book to give something from it a try.

There are over 400 recipes in the book, which means there is usually a good chance of finding something I can make.  Since we were going to celebrate a birthday at work I thought I would bring something to work to share with everyone.  I felt that limited me to a dessert instead of a main dish, but that didn’t provide much of an obstacle since there are a lot of dessert recipes to choose from—it is, after all, a fruit cookbook!  I wanted to try a fruit I had never cooked with before, but I didn’t want to get too crazy, so instead of choosing guava or medlar (which I have never even heard of) I picked a recipe for pear cake. The recipe looked simple enough that I couldn’t mess it up.

1 pound pears

Juice of a lemon

1 ½ cups flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

Pinch salt

1/3 cup caster sugar

2 large eggs

¼ cup melted butter

1 tablespoon water

The cake is brushed with an apricot glaze after being baked.  The glaze is made of 2 tablespoons of apricot jam and 2 tablespoons of water.

Peel, core, and cut up the pears into a bowl containing the lemon juice.  Turn them in the juice so that they do not darken.  Mix the remaining cake ingredients in the order they are given, then fold in the pears with any juice.  Turn into a lined 8 inch cake pan, which has been brushed with extra melted butter.  Bake for an hour at 350 degrees, or until cooked.  In full disclosure, I don’t know what caster sugar is.  I didn’t find it in my local grocery store and I was too lazy to make a trip to a specialty store to see if I could find it.  Instead, I chose to believe that sugar is sugar and to just use normal granulated sugar.

Make a glaze by boiling together the apricot jam and water.  Sieve out the lumps.

Remove the cake from the pan and brush it with the apricot glaze.  It can be eaten hot or warm as a pudding, with cream if you like, as well as cold.

IMG_3556All of my previous cake making experience created a batter that poured into a pan, so I was a little thrown off by the results I had from this recipe.  Instead of a batter the cake ingredients made a dry dough.  I tried to mess that up by reading the ¼ cup of melted butter as 1 cup, but I caught the mistake just before pouring the full cup of melted butter into the mix.  The bright side is I had plenty of extra butter on hand to use to brush the cake pan.  I was also a little worried because it looked like I had way too many pears to go with the dough, but I put them all in any way.  The lemon juice provided just enough liquid to moisten the dough and it all went into the pan looking pretty good.  A few minutes before the cake was due to come out of the oven I made the glaze and brushed it on the cake as soon as it came out of the oven.  After letting it cool I covered it and put it in the refrigerator overnight.  The end result was a dense, sort of bread like cake that was very moist.   The sweetness of the pears added just the right touch, in combination with the sugar in the cake mix.  I thought the cake was delicious and my marketing colleagues seemed to enjoy it as well.  At least, I don’t think I saw anyone with a fake smile pasted on their face as they forced themselves to choke down the cake.

-Rob

Praise for Rob’s pear cake from Marketing:

“The slight crunch of the pears made the texture of the cake delightful!”

“Rob Buchanan’s mastery of the genre comes through with every bite.”

“A pear-fect rendition of an American classic.”

“Rob Buchanan’s masterpiece demands attention from every chef, every wannabe cook, every amateur with a spoon and oven.”

“I consider it an honor to have been given the opportunity to eat such a landmark in baking history.”