Pear Brown Butter Buckle
In the midst of nectarine and peach season earlier this summer, I made Smitten Kitchen’s Nectarine Brown Butter Buckle, not once, but twice! Although I almost never follow recipes exactly, I happen to suffer from baking stage fright; this time I stuck pretty closely to the recipe, and it was delicious.
Then this fall, my roommate returned from a visit to the Bay Area with a small cardboard box bursting with at least 30 miniature and quickly-ripening pears. She generously asked me to help her eat them (and I generously told her I was up to the task). I love making salads topped with chopped pears, along with almonds or walnuts, instead of tomatoes, but at 1-2 pears per salad, and 0-1 salads a day, that clearly wasn’t going to cut it…
That’s when the inspiration struck to make the brown butter buckle with pears instead of nectarines. And luckily, by then my baking stage fright had subsided just a bit– at least with this recipe– so I looked around for some other autumnal fruit buckles and coffee cakes (like this one), and got some ideas.
The result still embraced Smitten Kitchen’s browned buttery goodness, but had more of a lemony zest, a gingery warmth, and a walnutty crunch than the original nectarine cake. (Plus the dense pear-soaked layer and extra seasonings all permeated the the rest of the cake to keep it extra soft.)
All of these components were so well suited to the juicy pears, that their combination made for an even more flavorful coffee-cake-like dessert. Or breakfast.
(Makes a 10-inch round cake, although I used one 8-inch round pan, and another mini baking dish)
For the Cake:
~ ¾ unsalted butter (once browned, ½ cup will go into the cake and ¼ cup into the topping)
~ 1 ½ cups flour
~ 2 tsp. baking powder
~ ¼ tsp. ground ginger
~ ¼ tsp. salt
~ pinch of nutmeg
~ pinch of ground cloves
~ 1 cup sugar
~ 2 eggs
~ 1 tsp. lemon zest
~ ½ tsp. vanilla
~ ⅔ cup buttermilk (got this tip from SK: make your own buttermilk with 1 Tbsp. lemon juice per 1 cup milk, then let sit for 10 minutes.)
~ 4-6 ripe pears (I used 6 small ones), cut into slices
~ ¼ cup browned butter saved from above
~ ½ cup sugar
~ ½ cup flour
~ ½ tsp. lemon zest
~ ¼ tsp. cinnamon
~ pinch of salt
~ ¼ cup walnuts, chopped
How to Make it:
1. Brown the butter by slowly melting it in a small pan over low heat. It will turn white and frothy, then clear and bubbly, then will eventually start to turn brown. (It takes a bit of patience and constant stirring, but will smell so nice!) Once the butter has browned, stick the entire pan in the fridge so it can cool.
2. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10-inch round cake pan, baking dish, or cast iron pan.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, ground ginger, salt, nutmeg, and cloves (all dry ingredients except for the sugar).
4. In a large bowl, add ½ cup of the browned butter to the sugar (save the remaining ¼ cup of brown butter for the topping). Then whisk in the eggs, one at a time, and stir in the lemon zest, vanilla, and buttermilk.
5. Add dry ingredients (step 3) to wet ingredients (step 4), and stir until just combined. Pour batter into the baking dish, then arrange fruit slices on top.
6. Make the topping in a medium bowl, by mixing all of the dry topping ingredients together, then stirring in the remaining brown butter until it’s mixed well and begins to get crumbly. Sprinkle topping over the cake, and bake for 40 minutes, until top is nicely browned.