Dogs don't care what the weather is like. If they're accustomed to a daily walk, they still want to go for a romp in the woods no matter what: rain, shine, snow, whatever. Some things are sacred. Even today, when it's around 8 degrees and the winds are howling. Walks must be taken, or you risk having a tennis ball thrown at your head repeatedly. And you have to listen to a lot of heavy, indignant sighs heaving out of the sad beast slumped on the floor like a puddle of goo.
And so this afternoon, three people and two dogs bundled up and ventured out into the woods.
One of the highlights was stopping to inspect a huge spruce tree the wind had blown over.
Its top branches were fully-loaded with pinecones.
It was kind of sad and kind of awesome to reach out and touch its top branch, which used to be a mile high in the sky.
It turns out, the dogs were right. Even on bad weather days, I find it's worth it to put on the right clothes and venture out for some fresh air.
It's also nice to come home to something warm and delicious to eat. Like this upside-down pear cake.
I think it's now on my short list of favorite dessert recipes. I found it by accident after buying way too many pears at Costco. Those big bags of fruit are way too much for the two of us to polish off but they're so tempting! And while we'd eaten a lot of them, there were still four or five pears in the fruit bowl on the verge of going mushy. I found this recipe on The Pinterest and I got to work slicing pears and arranging them as artfully as possible in a cake pan.
The house smelled wonderful while this was baking, and the cake flipped out of the pan perfectly (a test of a good upside-down cake recipe), and it looked very pretty. The sugary sauce that collects at the bottom of the pan soaks into the cake after it's flipped, turning it almost custard-y on the top. We ate it for days, warming each slice just slightly in the microwave for 10-15 seconds so it had a nice just-out-of-the-oven warmth to it. So good. It would have been even better with some vanilla ice cream or some fresh whipped cream, but I was too lazy to go to a real store to buy either of those things, so I stopped by a convenience store and got a 5-dollar can of Redi-Whip. It did not detract from the deliciousness of this cake!
I'm kind of hoping my husband will request it for his birthday in a couple of weeks but he keeps mentioning pie instead. I might have to make this again for myself, in addition to his birthday pie.
Caramelized Pear Upside-Down Cake
Makes a 9-inch one-layer cake
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter (plus 6 more tablespoons for the batter - see below)
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3 ripe pears, thinly sliced
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
3 tablespoons cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-inch round cake pan.
Combine the four tablespoons of butter, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a small saucepan and heat to boiling, then remove from heat. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Arrange the pears over the butter mixture and press down.
Beat the 6 tablespoons of butter and sugar with an electric mixer until creamy, about 1 minute. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until very smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Sprinkle in the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt, and beat 10 seconds. Pour in the milk and beat just until the batter is evenly moistened, about 1 minute. Pour the batter over the pears, then carefully lift the pan and bang it on the counter once or twice to release any air bubbles.
Bake for approximately 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. I put a sheet of foil under the cake pan to catch the pear juices that boiled over while baking. Let cake sit in the pan on a rack for 30 minutes or so to cool slightly.
Run a knife along the outer edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Place a plate over the cake, then flip it over to invert the cake onto the pan. Serve warm or cold, it's up to you.