Monday, January 19, 2009

Baking 101 for Ali Baba

Baking 101

For Engineers Without Borders UW Chapter's famous Dessert, Wine, and Cheese fundraiser, I've been practicing baking along with a couple other culinarily inclined members. We're getting ready for the weekend before the event, where we will each take on about 10 different desserts (and probably multiple of many of these) and try to pump them out with bakery quality and speed, with a few helpers. I volunteered myself, even though I had barely ever baked in my life before the past few months. Sure I'd helped a few friends make cookies or something of the sort, but my mother rarely baked, and so by extension, neither did I.

Needless to say, it's been a quick education! But one that has given me an excuse to fill in a sad gap in my techniques. Typically I would shy away from the unhealthy and unnecessary nature of desserts, despite how delicious they are. However, now I have a good reason to fatten up my roommates and myself...and learn a thing or two in the process. ;)

The below recipe was out of my friend Nate's Seriously Simple cookbook.

Caramelized Pear and Almond Upside Down Cake
with a caramel glaze

This was absolutely fantastic! The pears were caramelized in a 9" frying pan with the butter and brown sugar, then the batter poured on top and the whole thing baked for an hour. Inverted, it looks like that! The batter had an entire cup of ground blanched almonds, which pretty much defined the flavor, but not overpoweringly. A bit of a kick comes from a quarter cup of orange mango juice thrown in! Really great, crumby texture, with a crisp, buttery crust and a moist interior, all topped with the caramelized pear slices!

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