Tag Archives: caramel

Pineapple Upside Down Cake for Grownups

30 Jan
This is not your mama's pineapple upside down cake!

This is not your mama's pineapple upside down cake!

Dear Pineapple Upside Down Cake That My Mom Used To Make,

As a kid, I loved eating you.  I loved that my mom made your batter with pineapple juice, so you were very sweet.  I loved the maraschino cherries in the centers of your pineapple rings.  I loved your caramel-y goodness.  In short, I was a huge fan.

As an adult, I sort of fell out of love with you. I am sorry, P.U.D.in’, but it’s true.  What tasted “sweet” to my kid’s palate just tasted “cloying” to my adult palate.  I saw a documentary about how they make maraschino cherries, and, frankly, it was kind of a turn-off.  Your light caramel turned bland and two-dimensional; it no longer held me in thrall. I guess I just wasn’t that into you anymore.

And while I found other lovers, I never fell out of love with the idea of you.  The nostalgic romantic in me always wanted to somehow rekindle that spark of childhood adoration.  Even though I thought I had moved on, shutting the door forever on our relationship, I wanted to find my way back to you.  That is how much I loved you.  I loved individual aspects of you, still–pineapple, cake, caramel–I just needed to find a way for the grown up me to love you again.

And then it came to me. You, my own sweet P.U.D.in’, would have to grow up, too.  As a child, I played with childish things, but as an adult, it was time for me to put away my childish things and rediscover you as an adult.  I knew that somehow I could find my way to a mature version of that childhood love.  And, beloved Pineapple Upside Down Cake, I have.  Welcome back.  Welcome back.


Friends, if you, too, have fallen out of love with your childhood friend, if you think that pineapple upside down cake is fit only for school cafeteria lines and Fourth of July picnics, let me reintroduce you to the new and improved, all grown up, sexy Pineapple Financier.

Sexy Batter (makes kind of a lot.  If this is more than you need, it will keep in the refrigerator for two or three days with no problem)

  • 375 g. powdered sugar
  • 135 g. toasted macadamia nuts, finely ground
  • 135 g. all purpose flour
  • 4 g. baking powder
  • 3 g. salt
  • 375 g. egg whites
  • 200 g. browned butter
  • 35 g. corn syrup

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix all dry ingredients thoroughly.  With the mixer on low, slowly blend in the egg whites.  Scrape the bowl as needed.  Drizzle in the browned butter and the corn syrup.  Mix until uniformly blended.

Sexy Rum Caramel

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup dark rum
  • heavy pinch of salt
  • wee splash of vanilla

Bring sugar to a boil with a little water.  Put a lid on and let boil for 2-3 minutes to wash sugar crystals off the sides of the pan.  Remove lid and bring the sugar to a dark amber caramel.  Turn off the heat and add the cream.  It will splutter and complain and foam up.  Stir the caramel over medium heat until it is smooth.  Add the alcohol and the salt.  Simmer until slightly reduced.  Remove from the heat and cool down for a few minutes.  Stir in the wee splash of vanilla.

Grown-Up Pineapple Upside Down Cake

  1. Grease a 9-10″ cast iron skillet or a 9-10″ round baking pan.
  2. Spread a very thin layer of caramel in the bottom of the pan.
  3. Arrange slices or rings of fresh pineapple in some sort of pleasing (or not) pattern on top of the caramel.  Add some toasted crushed macadamia nuts or even some toasted coconut, if you want.
  4. Spread another layer of caramel on top of the pineapple.  You might not use all of the caramel.  Oh, well.  Use it on ice cream or mix it into some coffee or hot chocolate.
  5. Pour and spread the financier batter on top of the caramel.  Fill the skillet/pan about 1/2-2/3 full.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees until the cake is risen, is a beautiful, caramelized golden brown and is pretty firm to the touch, about 35 minutes–but keep an eye on it.  If the cake starts to get a little too brown before it is completely set, turn the oven down by 25 degrees, F, and cover it with a piece of foil.
  7. Remove from oven and let sit until warm but not hot.
  8. Run a knife around the outside of the cake to loosen it, if necessary.  Put a serving platter on top of the skillet/pan and carefully turn the whole thing over.  Give the pan a good whack, and lift it off.  Rearrange any recalcitrant pieces of pineapple that might have decided to stay in the pan.
  9. Serve with vanilla ice cream, coconut sorbet or maybe some of that delightful Haagen Dazs toasted coconut-sesame brittle ice cream.  And maybe some of the extra rum caramel, if you didn’t put it all in your coffee.  Mmmmmmmmmm.

Hello! Hey, guys:  you can make the financier batter with whatever nuts you want and then use a complementary fruit.  How about walnuts or pecans and pears and/or apples?  I am sure you can come up with a ton of variations.  Plus, you can make little individual cake-lets, too.  They’ll only need to bake for maybe 15-20 minutes or so.

So, hey!  Um, guys? I hope I have helped to reacquaint you with a long-lost childhood love.  Oh, okay, I will leave you two alone now.  I’ll just quietly close the door behind me…

An Unconventional Apple Pie for Thanksgiving

14 Nov
Make this "regular" dessert special for the holidays.

Make this regular dessert special for Thanksgiving.

I’m on a caramel kick, now, y’all.  I love chocolate, but as often as not, I’ll choose caramel instead.  I find it very appropriate for the season, too.  It’s the rich amber of autumn and carries the faint bitter edge of burning leaves in the back of the throat.  It is the perfect fall flavor.  Disagree?  By all means, leave a comment.

I was thinking of an easy but arresting spin on apple pie as a Thanksgiving dessert.  Again, no recipe required.  If you slice and caramelize the fruit (see the Tarte Tatin post), you can serve it over some rich vanilla ice cream.  Use a rolling pin to roll a sheet of thawed store-bought puff pastry in cinnamon sugar–both sides.  Cut rounds, or even leaf shapes and bake until golden brown and puffed.  Perch your decorative “crust” atop the apples and serve with whipped creme fraiche sweetened with some brown sugar and a pinch of cinnamon.  Oh, yum!  It has the elements of apple pie a la mode:  crust, filling and ice cream, but it’s presented in a new way.  Feeling really fancy?  Add some chopped candied nuts sprinkled on top.

Tarte Tatin–It Ain’t Just For Apples

13 Nov
Lovely, caramelized Pear Tatin

Lovely, caramelized Pear Tatin

So, maybe the traditional Tarte Tatin, created by the Tatin sisters (seriously) uses apples.  There is no reason that you can’t use any other fairly firm fruit for this, though.  All this mysterious dish is is fruit sauted in a caramel sauce baked with a piece of blitz puff, puff pastry or pate brisee on top.  Take it out of the oven, let it set up for a few minutes, and turn it out on a plate.  Voila:  dessert is served!

And how is this gastronomic delight prepared?  Get your notepads.  Here we go:

Halve and core apples/pears/firm apricots/bananas, etc.  In a well-seasoned cast iron skillet, caramelize sugar with a pinch of salt and a little butter.  Add the fruit–earlier if the fruit is very firm; later if the fruit is a bit softer–and saute.  Really pack the fruit in; try to arrange it artfully, but it’s not imperative.  Remove from heat, fit a piece of pastry dough over the fruit, tucking it down around the fruit inside the rim of the skillet.  Bake at 375 until pastry is done and the whole thing is bubbly and beautiful.  Remove from oven; let sit a few minutes to set up.  Put a large plate over the top of the skillet and flip carefully.  Lift off the pan.  You might need to rearrange any fruit that got stuck in the pan.  Serve warm.

And that’s it.  Very easy–no recipe required.  Awesome, huh?!  Your holiday dessert awaits.  Oh, remember what I said about the caramel:  the darker, the better.  If you’re serving this to kids, keep it lighter.  If it’s an adult dessert, you’ll want to take your caramel pretty dark.

Caramel: It’s Not Just For Dessert Anymore.

11 Nov
Is your mouth watering yet?

Is your mouth watering yet?

The word caramel might conjure up sticky-sweet golden, chewy caramel apples, or Sugar Daddies, or caramel sauce over ice cream.  And, you’d be right–those things are caramel.  I’m here to talk about grown up caramel.  Dark, just-this-side-of-bitter, not-too-sweet, deeply complex grown-up caramel.

Don’t get me wrong–“kid caramel” has its place.  I’d never turn down a gooey caramel/pecan/milk chocolate confection.  You know the ones that are named for a reptile?  I’m also first in line for the sweet cream caramel sauce at the ice cream bar.  But sometimes, the adult in you cries out for an adult caramel.  One that is less sweet.  One that you can roll around on your tongue like a fine wine, enjoying the complex flavors.

How about a caramel to go with a savory dish?  I know this is a pastry site, but consider the idea for a moment–deeply caramelized sugar mixed with a rich stock to go with deeply caramelized meat.  How fantastic would that be?!  I’m thinking with game, such as venison.  Or maybe with duck, pheasant or some other dark meat poultry.  Here’s what I’d do. I’d take the sugar to a mahogany caramel and then pour in a stock that is complementary to the meat–1:1 ratio of caramel to stock.  Add in some dried or tart fresh fruit (think cranberry) as a foil to the sweet meat.  Ooh!  What about using some dried apples to play up an adult “caramel apple” and serve it over pork?!  Make sure there’s plenty of salt and pepper and complementary herbs.  Reduce the sauce until syrupy.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Up next, adult caramel in the dessert world…So, what are your thoughts?  Ever considered caramel for dinner?  Ever tried it?

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