Janine Gilbertson's Granite Kitchen: Pears get forgotten in the frenzy over apples and pumpkin spice

By JANINE GILBERTSON October 17. 2017 11:58PM

This spice cake, substituting pears for the original recipe's apples, could be the best cake ever, at least in the Granite Kitchen. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Every fall, apple and pumpkin mania kicks in; it seems like you can’t turn a corner without coming across a pumpkin latte or apple spice muffin. Some grocery stores have end cap displays dedicated to the latest and greatest pumpkin products — pumpkin spice popcorn, pumpkin flavored baking chips, pumpkin spice pretzels and even pumpkin spice dog food.

With all the attention focused on apples and pumpkins, it’s easy to forget other fall fruits and vegetables that are around this time of year. Like pears.

I used to have two pear trees in the yard at my old house. The trees were 60 years old and as far as I knew, they were never pruned and cared for properly, but they still produced quite a few pears.

Unfortunately, I never paid much attention to the trees or the pears until the ripened pears dropped from the trees and got chopped up by the lawnmower, spraying pear relish all over my shoes. Not very pleasant.

I thought I would pay some long-overdue attention to fresh fall pears this week. I decided to see what would happen if I substituted pears for apples in an apple cake recipe I’ve used for so long, I’m not even sure where I got it. The result was so delicious, it was dubbed “the best cake ever,” even beating out the various chocolate cakes I’ve made over the years.

You can do a lot with ripe pears. They’re particularly good in salads with interesting greens like radicchio and arugula drizzled with some balsamic vinegar dressing and finished with pecans or walnuts. If you need a little plate of snacks, slice up a French baguette and pile on some prosciutto and fresh pears with a little cranberry goat cheese.

For a quick dessert, slice a ripe pear in half, sprinkle it with a pinch of ground clove and a pinch of brown sugar (or skip the sugar altogether) and bake it in a warm oven for abut 40 minutes. The fragrance of clove and baked pear will fill the house and when served with a little vanilla ice cream, it’s an effortless treat.

As I was writing this, a little slogan popped into my head: “Pears, the other fall fruit.” 

Pears are usually on sale around this time of year too, so don’t forget to check them out at the grocery store or farm stand.
This spice cake, substituting pears for the original recipe's apples, could be the best cake ever, at least in the Granite Kitchen. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Fresh Pear Cake

3 cups fresh peeled and diced pears

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

1 3/4 cups granulated sugar

3 eggs

3 cups flour

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp vanilla

2 tbsp butter, melted

1/2 cup walnuts

2 tbsp brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 325. Add the oil, granulated sugar and vanilla to a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until well blended. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. 

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt and mix well. 

Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and beat until smooth. Stir the pears into the batter using a spatula. 

Spray an 8-inch cake pan with cooking spray and pour the batter into the pan, spreading it evenly. 

Place the walnuts in a small bowl with the brown sugar and drizzle with melted butter. Stir to coat evenly and sprinkle evenly over the top of the cake. 

Bake at 325 for 50 to 55 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
Baked pears make a simple, naturally sweet dessert. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Baked Pears

2 fresh pears

1/8 tsp ground clove

1 tsp brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350. 

Cut the pears in half and scoop out the seeds. Set the pears cut side up in a small baking dish and sprinkle with clove and brown sugar. 

Bake at 350 degrees until soft, about 40 minutes.
Pear crostini with prosciutto, goat cheese and balsamic cream. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Pear and Prosciutto Crostinis

1 fresh pear

1 French baguette

3 oz package prosciutto

4 oz package cranberry goat cheese

2 tbsp balsamic cream, such as Pastene

Cut the bread into slices about 3/8 inch thick. 

Tear or cut the prosciutto into pieces long enough to almost cover each slice of bread, then set the slices on top of the bread. 

Slice the pear into thin slices (about 1/4 inch thick). If necessary, cut the slices in half lengthwise to fit on top of the prosciutto. Once the pear slices are in place, set about 1 teaspoon of goat cheese on top. 

Drizzle with the balsamic cream, then serve.


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