There are some combinations that just don't seem like they would work, but they're oh-so-good together. Many of these feature chocolate - chocolate and chiles, chocolate and curry, chocolate and orange and so on. But chocolate and pear? Oh yes - it's so good! This recipe was adapted from Smitten Kitchen and made a great mother's day treat (yes I know I'm a bit behind). It's chock-full of goodies but not super sweet. Browning the butter adds a gorgeous nuttiness along with the richness from toasty pecans and a little tart background note from unsweetened dried cherries.
Brown Butter Cake with Bittersweet Chocolate and Pears
3 large slightly ripe (but still firm) red pears, peeled, cored and diced
1/2 cup unsweetened dried cherries, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup toasted chopped pecans
3/4 cup coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate
1-2 Tbsp all purpose flour
5 large eggs at room temperature
6 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp pecan or almond extract
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1-2 Tbsp cocoa powder (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 and butter and flour a bundt pan, large springform pan or other suitable large baking dish.
Prepare the goodies by mixing the chopped pears, cherries, pecans and chocolate together and tossing with enough flour to coat. The flour will help keep them from sinking to the bottom of the cake and will absorb some of the moisture from fresh pears.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, start whipping the eggs on high speed. The goal is to get them very pale and thick so that they fall in a shiny ribbon from the beater. This will take at least 5 minutes.
While they're whipping, melt the butter in a medium heavy bottomed saucepan. It will foam up and start to brown. Stir it occasionally until it's a golden brown and smells nutty (usually 5-8 minutes on medium heat). Remove from heat and cool.
In a sifter or mesh strainer, combine remaining flour, salt and baking powder.
Add the sugars to the eggs and continue to whip until the mixture just starts to lose volume. Then turn the mixer to its lowest speed, sift in one third of the flour mixture, then add half the butter, repeat and then add the remaining flour mixture, stirring until just combined.
(optional) If you have a cute bundt pan like this sunflower one you can take a little bit of the batter and sift in some cocoa powder until it turns brown. This batter can then be used at the bottom of the pan in sections that can benefit from some pattern. For instance, it's been poured into the center well of the pan here.
Pour into the prepared pan and sprinkle with the goodies on top. They will sink down a bit as it bakes. Baking times will vary depending on your pan so you'll have to experiment, but a bundt like this one took just about an hour. Start checking after 40 minutes for thinner pans, 50 minutes for deep ones. It's done when golden brown, springs back when touched and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.