This pear and toasted miso upside-down cake recipe is sweet, savory and gluten-free
This homey upside down cake from Aran Goyoaga, a third-generation baker, self-taught stylist and photographer, is a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach.
In this simple but visually arresting cake from her third cookbook, "Canelle et Vanille Bakes Simple," sliced pears are fanned out over a quickly made caramel base and are covered with a gluten-free batter made with miso.
The result is a cake that can be pulled together in little time — say, when unexpected company shows up — but is enough of a showstopper to be prepared for special occasions. There's a pleasurable tension between the sweetness of the caramel and pears and the umami of the miso, a tug-of-war that's welcome on the palate and prevents the confection from being too sweet.
While the original cake in the book features plums, I opted to use more seasonally appropriate pears and was delighted by the result. And come next summer when plums return to my local farmers market, I'll make this cake as originally intended.
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Pear and Toasted Miso Upside-Down Cake
Active time: 30 mins | Total time: 1 hour 30 mins
Storage Notes: Store tightly wrapped in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
2/3 cup (130 grams) granulated sugar, divided
2 medium unpeeled pears (about 1 pound/455 grams total), such as Anjou or Bosc, cored and sliced 1/3- to 1/2-inch thick
3 tablespoons (60 grams) shiro miso (white miso)
1/3 cup (85 grams/80 milliliters) whole milk (may substitute with unsweetened plant milk)
1 cup (200 grams) lightly packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup (110 grams/120 milliliters) sunflower oil or extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup (140 grams) light buckwheat flour or sorghum flour
1/2 cup (50 grams) almond flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon fine salt
Finely chopped almonds, for serving (optional)
Heavy cream, whipped, for serving (optional)
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 F.
Set a medium stainless steel skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle half of the sugar evenly in the pan. As the sugar melts, sprinkle in the remainder and cook until all the sugar turns the color of a penny, 3 to 5 minutes. If the sugar isn't melting evenly, stir it with a wooden spoon or flexible spatula. Transfer the caramel to a 9-inch cake pan, scraping the skillet to get every bit out. Carefully swirl the pan around so the bottom is covered with the caramel; the pan will get hot, so be careful. If you miss a few spots on the bottom of the pan before the caramel hardens, don't worry - it will remelt in the oven when baking.
Carefully arrange the pears in a circular pattern over the caramel; set aside.
Using the same skillet, spread the miso in a thin layer on the bottom. Set the skillet over medium-high heat and cook the miso until it begins to stick to the skillet, stirring it around with a wooden spoon to toast it, 1 to 2 minutes. It will turn dark and smoky. Pour in the milk and whisk it with the miso, as if making a roux. The mixture will thicken into a dark paste. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool for about 5 minutes.
Whisk the brown sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla into the miso paste until smooth. Then whisk in the buckwheat or sorghum flour, almond flour, baking soda and salt until you have a smooth batter. Pour it over the pears and transfer to the oven.
Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan set over a wire rack for about 15 minutes, then run a butter knife close to the edge of the pan to release the cake and invert it onto a serving plate. If bits of caramel get stuck on the bottom of the pan, don't worry - this is a rustic cake and need not look perfect.
Serve warm or at room temperature with a sprinkle of chopped almonds and/or a dollop of whipped cream, if using.
Adapted from "Cannelle et Vanille Bakes Simple" by Aran Goyoaga (Sasquatch Books, 2021).
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