Al Di La’s Chocolate and Pear Cake

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There are people in this world who can read the same book over and over again. That’s hard for me because I view my time on this earth much like Dorothy views the red sand in the Wicked Witch’s hourglass, constantly sifting downward until there’s nothing left. I almost never read the same book twice (though I did recently re-read Cooking For Mr. Latte but that’s only because I’d just finished reading We Need To Talk About Kevin and, after that, I needed something that made the world not seem like a festering black hole of misery and despair; though I do recommend that book, I do).

Anyway, I’m saying all this because I have a similar attitude about desserts. Almond Cake notwithstanding, why make the same dessert again and again when there are so many desserts out there for you to try? In case you haven’t noticed, I make a different dessert for almost every dinner party. Well, did. See everything’s changed now because I just discovered the recipe for Al Di La’s Chocolate and Pear Cake on Smitten Kitchen and it may be my new favorite go-to fall dessert. I’ve already made it twice.

What’s so good about it? Well having eaten the cake at Al Di La back when I lived in Park Slope (you can even see a picture of a slice of that cake that I ate with Diana in 2006!) it’s just a surprising combination. Chocolate and pears? Well, yes. They go wonderfully together. Once you accept that, the cake itself is a cinch.

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That’s a springform pan buttered and coated with breadcrumbs. Yes, breadcrumbs. That’s a thing I’ve been doing a lot lately, like that time I made Gina DePalma’s ricotta cheesecake. Now you do two things: you brown a stick of butter.

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And you whip some eggs until they’re thick:

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You add sugar to the eggs, they deflate a bit, then you add a flour mixture and the brown butter back and forth–alternating–until you have a cake batter. A brown butter cake batter that tastes delicious.

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To that you add cubed pears and chopped up chocolate in big chunks. Check it out:

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I love that image because that’s what this cake is all about: that strange, surprising, and very fall-like combination of chocolate and pears.

Into the oven that goes and about 40 to 50 minutes later it comes out looking like this:

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Let it cool for about 10 minutes, unlatch the sides and then let it cool completely before transferring it to a cake stand that’s also a punchbowl. Dust with lots of powdered sugar before serving.

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I just served it like that though, of course, you could add a dollop of whipped cream or some ice cream. It’s a perfect fall dessert and despite my conviction that our time on this earth is fleeting, it’s one I’ll be making again and again until the red sand in my own personal hourglass is gone.

Recipe: Al Di La’s Chocolate and Pear Cake

Summary: Adapted from Smitten Kitchen.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (unseasoned please!)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3 pears, peeled, diced (I used Bosc)
  • 3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chunks (I used a bar of Ghiardelli 70% bittersweet)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and then coat with the breadcrumbs, hitting any excess out into the sink.
  2. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together.
  3. Using your KitchenAid mixer, whip the eggs with the whisk attachment until very pale and thick. (You can use handheld beaters here too.)
  4. While the eggs are whipping, brown the butter. Add the stick to a pot, turn the heat up to medium and let it melt; then turn the heat higher and let it get toasty brown. Take it as far as you can go without burning it; when it’s just there, take it off the heat. (Keep in mind it’ll continue to brown after you remove it from the heat, so take it two steps from the edge.)
  5. Add the sugar to the eggs and whip a few minutes more. When the eggs start to lose volume, turn the mixer down to low and add the flour mixture and brown butter back and forth, starting and ending with the flour (I went: flour, butter, flour, the rest of the butter, flour). Use a rubber spatula to do one final mix and then pour the mixture into the prepared pan.
  6. Combine the pear and chocolate in a bowl so they’re nicely mixed and then sprinkle over the cake batter. Bake the cake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. Allow to cool and then remove the sides. Dust with lots of powdered sugar and serve plain or with whipped cream or ice cream, if you like.

Preparation time: 30 minute(s)

Cooking time: 45 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 8

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