I remember sitting at my desk early last year and an instant message window popped up – "! ! !" was all that was contained in that box, followed by a link. We had been friends – and secretly dating each other in our minds without the other knowing it – for some time. I clicked that link and it took me to a recipe on Smitten Kitchen's blog – pear and bittersweet chocolate cake. I wanted to impress him. Show him how well I could cook. Woo him with food.
So for his birthday, I made the cake. Timidly toting that cake in its pan to his birthday party. He swooned and raved about it – and didn't share a piece with anyone. To this day, he still tells people that I made him this cake last year. He's also still telling people that I made it four times to make sure it was just right (which is true, I can embarassingly attest.)
This year, I made him this cake again. After his birthday – but only slightly – as an early Valentine's Day treat. I only had to make it once…and I made it in a kitchen we share together. While the circumstances around the cake have changed – this one got shared with friends and was instantly devoured – the taste of it hadn't. Dense but still light. The flavor combination of the pear and the chocolate woven together with a slight whiff of nutty browned butter. It's one of the most remarkable cake recipes I've ever made – you won't miss the frosting or frou-frou touches. I'm sharing the recipe here so you don't miss out on sharing it with someone else.
Al Di La's Torta di Pere – Bittersweet Chocolate and Pear Cake – original recipe found here at Smitten Kitchen
– Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and dust with breadcrumbs (I cheated and used flour), set aside.
– Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together, set aside.
– Using a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the eggs on high speed until pale and very thick. (In a professional Kitchen Aid, it takes at least five minutes; on a home machine, it will take nine minutes to get sufficient volume)
– While the eggs are whipping, brown the butter. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan (because it will foam a lot) and cook it until the butter browns and smells nutty (about 6 to 8 minutes). It helps to frequently scrape the solids off the bottom of the pan in the last couple minutes to ensure even browning. Remove from the flame but keep in a warm spot.
– Add the sugar to the eggs and whip a few minutes more.
– Just as the egg-sugar mixture is starting to loose volume, turn the mixture down to stir, and add the flour mixture and brown butter. Add one third of the flour mixture, then half of the butter, a third of the flour, the remaining butter, and the rest of flour. Whisk until just barely combined — no more than a minute from when the flour is first added — and then use a spatula to gently fold the batter until the ingredients are combined. It is very important not to over-whisk or fold the batter or it will lose volume.
Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle the pear and chocolate chunks over the top, and bake until the cake is golden brown and springs back to the touch, about 40 to 50 minutes or a tester comes out clean.