Last weekend the husband and I had some friends over for brunch. The rule for this particular group (who all are, or used to be personal chefs) is that you are supposed to make a dish that you have never tried making before.
A few weeks ago I added some peeled and cored pears to some mediocre brandy to make pear brandy. I used the brandy to make Pear Brandy Sidecars (which, P.S., were delicious) and was left with two pears that were infused with brandy. I decided to try making a coffee cake that would take advantage of these brandy-soaked pears.
Since I am not much of a baker, I turned to Ratio by Michael Ruhlman and used the basic quick bread recipe. For the crumb portion of the cake, I used my go-to berry crumble topping (with just a couple of tweaks) and since my favorite part of coffee cake is the crunchy crumble, I made a lot of it. Lastly I decided a vanilla glaze would be pretty on top so I made a little of that too.
Here’s the ingredients for the crumble (along with the sliced brandy-soaked pears).
I combined all of the crumble ingredients in a bowl.
Then used my fingers to mix it together (and after years of making this I finally realized that if I put gloves on I wouldn’t end up with schmutz under my fingernails).
Then I set this aside and turned to the cake.
In one bowl I whisked together all of the dry ingredients. Then in a second bowl I whisked together the milk and eggs.
Then I added the melted butter and whisked some more. Adding the melted butter to the cold milk results in the butter getting firm again, but in tiny bits, which distributes the butter throughout the cake.
Finally I added the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.
And whisked some more, just enough to get rid of the big lumps.
I poured half of the batter into a springform pan, spread the sliced pears over the batter, then sprinkled about half of the crumble mixture over the pears.
Then I poured the remainder of the batter over the pears and crumble.
Finally I distributed the rest of the crumble mixture over the batter. It may seem like this was quite a bit of work, but this cake seriously come together in about 20 minutes.
The whole thing went into a 350 degree oven. I started checking it at 40 minutes, giving the pan a shake every 5 minutes and pulling it out when it didn’t jiggle anymore, which took a total of 55 minutes.
I let this cool for an hour or so and then put together the glaze.
I pushed the powdered sugar through a mesh strainer to get rid of all the little lumps, poured this into a bowl and then added the all of the vanilla and then the milk a tiny bit at a time until it was the right consistency for drizzling (it takes a surprisingly small amount of milk to make the glaze).
Finally I removed the sides of the springform pan and then drizzled the icing over the cake (over the sink to catch any drips).
I served the cake while it was still a little warm (the best way to eat coffee cake) and was very pleased with the results. The pears were a little strong for a couple of my guests, but most of us found them to be extremely tasty (they also kept the cake very moist). Next time you need a brunch treat, I highly recommend this cake.
BRANDIED-PEAR COFFEE CAKE
Plain Bosc or Bartlett pears can be substituted for the brandied pears if you are not interested in making pear brandy. If you don’t have a springform pan. the cake can be made in a square or rectangular baking pan although the baking time might need to be adjusted.
For the pears:
2 bosc or bartlett pears which have been peeled and cored then steeped in brandy for 3-4 weeks, drained (reserving the brandy, of course) and sliced.
For the crumble:
2 oz flour
8 oz brown sugar
3 oz butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes and softened slightly
4 oz pecans, lightly chopped
1 1/2 oz rolled oats
For the cake:
6 oz sugar
12 oz flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 oz whole milk
6 oz butter, melted
For the icing:
4 oz powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 Tablespoon milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a springform pan with non-stick spray and set aside.
In a small bowl combine all of the crumble ingredients and use your fingers or a fork to mash together the ingredients until the butter is well distributed and all ingredients are well mixed. Set aside.
In a medium bowl stir together the dry cake ingredients. In a second bowl, whisk together the milk and eggs. Add the melted butter and continue to whisk to combine. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk until the batter is just combined and there are no large lumps remaining.
Pour half of the batter into the prepared springform pan. Evenly distribute the pears over the batter then sprinkle half of the crumble mixture over the pears. Pour remaining batter over the pears and sprinkle with the remaining crumble mixture.
Bake for 45-60 minutes. Cake is finished when it no longer jiggles in the middle.
Let cake cool for at least one hour. Press the powdered sugar through a sieve to remove lumps. Stir in vanilla and just enough milk to create the proper consistency for drizzling. Remove the outside of the springform pan and drizzle the top of the cake with the vanilla icing (you may not need all of the icing). Enjoy cake while it is still warm.