I guess this is why they say third time’s a charm.
I’ve tried baking twice before today. The first time when I was in seventh grade (or was it the 12th?) Either ways, the cake didn’t rise on account of excess oil. I was disappointed because mostly because now I had no armor when the girls of the class would show off their cooking skills in home science period. I decided to never speak of it until I tried my hand at baking again after a gap of ten years. This time I was working in a newspaper as a journalist. No one questioned my lack of domestication but did question the weird cake I kept trying to feed them one day. To be fair, while I had wasted tons of almonds on that cake and I was hopeful that while my cake did taste weird, someone in that office would be daring enough to try it out. They didn’t bite, of course. I made a mental note to call myself a bad baker and screw this genre of cooking,
Which is why the success of having made this unique pear bread after yet another gap of maybe 6 years, and that too on first attempt is befuddling even to me.
The recipe is simple enough to accomplish however I do believe my secret ingredient is the heart to heart I had with the bread batter while whisking it in a mad frenzy. Part of my enthusiasm stemmed from having watched Dawn of the Rise of the Apes. Now that movie is money well spent if you are a fan of stunning graphic work. Isn’t that what a good film does best. Fill you up with energy and excitement to accomplish more than you think you can?
I was in this mood when I finally noticed that pears that had been aging in my fridge for the past one week now. An unspoken resolve came bubbling from within and I decided that this glorious fruit would not die a slow death. Before I knew it, I had pureed the pears. I panicked exactly 15 minutes later when I realized that most recipes required pear to be chopped or shredded only. There was nothing except this link that looked ‘too simple.’ Normally my lack of domestication results in quite dramatic cooking failures, but today, I was bursting with a shit of blinding positivity. Which is why I have included a list of the idiosyncratic stuff I experienced towards the end of this post.
3/4 cup butter (unsalted)
1 cup sugar (original recipe says 1-1/4 cup) White or brown.
3 cups all purpose flour
½ t. baking soda
1-½ t. baking powder
1 t. cinnamon powder
1 t. nutmeg(didn’t have it)
¾ cup almonds. (ground though not too fine is ideal. Shredded is ideal. )
3 pears: Cored I guess.
How you do it:
- Preheat the oven to 350C. I did around 250-300C.
- Whisk the butter & sugar till it is creamy and smooth. Or at least one big blob.
- Add in the eggs one by one. Less work in the long run. If you all butter, sugar and egg together your whisking arm will die. Unless you own an egg beater.
- Grind the almonds though it’s okay for it to turn out chunky.
- In a separate bowl, mix flour, almond, baking powder, baking soda, almond powder and nutmeg together.
- Puree the pears then add 2 t. lemon juice to prevent oxidization.
- In the butter+sugar+egg batter, add in a third of the flour mix . whip it. Then add a third of the pear puree and whip again. I got a big serving spoon and did it in twos. Keep whipping to ensure no bubbles.
- Pop in the oven and get busy washing all the utensils and cleaning the kitchen. My prehistoric oven did the work in 20-25 minutes and I got darkened burns around the edges. Which means preheat can be set at a lesser temperature.
- Insert a skewer to inspect whether the batter is fully baked. That means the skewer should come out clean.
- Remove this cake/bread from the oven. Let it cool on the racks. I got restless and hacked it to pieces while grabbing bitefuls.
My screw ups/lessons learnt:
1. Buttered the cake pan and shoved it in the oven during pre heat time for 5 minutes, when I realized it was supposed to be all buttered up and kept outside.
2. For the Butter+Sugar mix: Spatula is better because all that butter will stick waaayyyy inside that whisk while the sugar will stick to the sides of the bowl. As a first time baker, I was having a heart attack at this stage because the damn butter wouldn’t melt fast enough.
3. It is possible to slip while whipping but avoid the mixture to fall on the floor by retaining tight grip and letting your bum take the fall.
4. Almond Grinding stage: Your mother may have three kinds of grinders but every one of them will spill the ground almond from air pockets you never knew it had. Or not grind some of it, at all.
5. It is okay to puree the pears and add lemon juice (that prevents oxidization) an hour later.
6. In general: In the absence of your mother, you can and you will use every available spoon, spatula, whip, knife, serving spoon, bowl of various sizes.
7. The secret ingredient is the heart to heart that you will have with your cake batter and command it to not screw up and that you needn’t worry.
8. Extra tasting Tip: For the courageous ones, I’d say try a piece with dhaniya chutney for a new burst of flavor. (Not everyone’s cup of tea)