What do you bring for dessert to a Chinese dinner?
I have the same dilemma each time I dine with my friends, Angela and Humphrey Chang. Angela is well known for her cookbooks and is working on a new one about tofu. We all bring something, and my assignment is usually a dessert (there are more than one), which suits me fine.
The trick is to find something not too heavily sweetened that will appeal to both Asian and Western palates. Chocolate seems too rich, and just doesn’t “go” with the dishes that preceed it, so I’ve avoided that (although I do have an idea of something in that vein for next time…). Something with fruit is usually the answer. So, over the years I’ve brought fruit tarts, clafoutis, and pies, which go over fine. But this time the Pear Upside-Down Cake in Volume No.5 of Canal House Cooking caught my eye, with its description of “warm ginger flavor” and “voluptuous pears.” You know how much I love this cookbook series!
Well, although the photo here looks fine (more or less), what I time I had with this cake. My pears were too big. I’m sure that’s why when I took the cake out of the oven, and turned it out of the pan (I swear that toothpick came out clean!), the middle was completely liquid, threatening to overrun the edges and flow all over my counter. Yikes!! I quickly clamped the pan back down over the pie, and flipped it over with a firm hold on the platter to avoid a flood. Whew!
Back into the oven it went for a good 15 minutes more, and next time I will know not to pick the most gi-normous pears in the market, that will then release a floodof juices into the batter, overwhelming its ability to set up. It’s true that I had trouble fitting the pear halves into the pan in the first place, but I was worried they wouldn’t soften and be juicy enough! Next time (and there will be a next time because the cake was good), I will use normal size pears, and bake a tad longer than I might otherwise. Whew indeed.