walnut

roasted pear and walnut spice cake bundt #bundtbakers

Whoa. I just realized that I haven’t baked a bundt cake since April.

roasted pear and walnut spice cake bundt | Brooklyn Homemaker

This has been one hell of a year, both personally with the Maxwell’s build out and opening, and for the country as a whole. This election cycle really has consumed me, chewed me up and spit me out, and just when I thought it would all finally be over, it seems like we’re in for even more struggle and strife.

While things may feel a little disheartening right now, life must go on, and getting back into the kitchen and revving up the ol’ stand mixer certainly helps me feel centered and whole again.

roasted pear and walnut spice cake bundt | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’m so so thrilled that Lauren from Sew You Think You Can Cook chose pears as our inspiration for the #bundtbakers this month. Thank you so much Lauren! Not only do I absolutely love pears on their own, there’s also something especially cozy and satisfying about baking with fall fruit pear-ed (har har) with warm homey spices.

With Thanksgiving only a week away, a pear bundt cake is just what the doctor ordered.

roasted pear and walnut spice cake bundt | Brooklyn Homemaker

I have a confession to make though.
I haven’t always liked pears.

My grandfather has always had several fruit and nut trees on his property, and when I was little I thought pears were absolutely disgusting. I don’t know if it was the grainy texture, or the thick sandy skin, or what, but to be perfectly honest I didn’t care for a lot of the bounty of grandpa’s garden.

I was truly a child of the 80’s, and a lot of my culinary influence during my formative years came from spending time in my grandmother’s kitchen. She is a product of her generation, and Grandma’s food philosophy came from the atomic-age desire for shiny, new, packaged convenience foods rather than the back-to-earth approach many of us prefer today. As a kid in Grandma’s kitchen, packaged food was celophane-wrapped, sterilized heaven to me, and I couldn’t get enough of it. Give me a box of doughnuts, a bag of chips, a can of soup, a bottle of soda, and a grilled cheese sandwich made with plastic-wrapped processed “cheese food”, bagged sliced white bread, and margarine from a tub.
Who wants to have to pick and wash fresh fruits and vegetables from outside with all the dirt and bees and bugs, when the fridge is stocked with Cool Whip and Velveeta that’s clean and delicious and ready to eat?

roasted pear and walnut spice cake bundt | Brooklyn Homemaker

Not me.
That’s who.

I did like Grandpa’s strawberries and plums, but even the strawberries had to be scrubbed and sliced and covered in sugar before I deemed them edible.

roasted pear and walnut spice cake bundt | Brooklyn Homemaker

Obviously my tastes have changed over the years, and as an adult I’ll take a ripe juicy pear, still warm from the sun, over a tub of chemically Cool Whip any day of the week.

As a kid, trips to my grandparents house filled me with excitement because I knew the cupboards were bursting with store-bought chips and cookies and doughnuts. These days I still get excited when I get to visit my grandparents, but now it’s because I know grandpa will load me up with sagging grocery bags filled with dirty bell peppers, lopsided butternut squash, fuzzy warm peaches, or sun-ripened tomatoes when I get ready to leave.

roasted pear and walnut spice cake bundt | Brooklyn Homemaker

When I was planning my bundt for this month, I knew that I really wanted the pears to be the stars of the show. My first instinct was to chop or cube or grate them just like apples into a traditional spice cake for flavor and added moisture, but somehow that didn’t seem like it was “enough”. My pears deserved better than playing second fiddle to cinnamon.

Determined to leave the pears whole (or at least halved) inside the cake, I decided to poach them in a bourbon ginger syrup. They smelled like heaven in the poaching liquid and I couldn’t help myself from sneaking spoonfuls of batter from the pan before it went into the oven. I was congratulating myself on a job well done before the cake even started to rise, and I couldn’t wait to get it out of the oven and see the autumnal perfection I’d come up with.

Aaaaaaand…

It was an absolute disaster.

The pears soaked up too much moisture in the poaching liquid, releasing it back into the cake to create a jiggly bundt with the weirdest almost blubbery texture I’ve ever had the misfortune to put in my mouth. As the cake cooled it sagged and the cake separated from the pears and slumped into a wobbly mess on the plate.

So, back to the drawing board. I knew I’d need a thicker, denser batter, and I obviously needed to find a way to pull moisture out of the pears before baking them into the cake. With poaching out of the question, I decided to try dry roasting the pears so they’d be tender but slightly dried out before going into the batter. Thankfully, it worked out beautifully and I think the pears are almost as happy about it as I am.

roasted pear and walnut spice cake bundt | Brooklyn Homemaker

You’ll want to use the smallest pears you can find for this recipe, because if they’re too big or tall they’ll take up too much room in the pan. They might cause the batter to run over in the oven, or could stick out the top of the cake and cause it to sit unevenly when plated. I also think that Bosc pears are the only variety firm and sturdy enough to stand up to being roasted, handled, and baked in this way without turning to mush or falling apart.

The bit of extra effort in roasting the pears and toasting the walnuts really pays off when you slice down into the cake to reveal a perfect cross-section of a whole pear (depending on where you slice).
And the flavor? Fuggitaboudit. Warm spices, tender roasted pears, crunchy toasted walnuts, buttery tender brown sugar spice cake, and a thick and tangy cream cheese glaze.
I mean. Come on.

This is basically THE perfect fall cake, and it would make an excellent addition to your Thanksgiving spread to boot. If you’re looking for even more fall inspiration and pear-y wonderfulness, make sure you scroll down past the recipe to see what the other #bundtbakers came up with this month!

roasted pear and walnut spice cake bundt | Brooklyn Homemaker

Roasted Pear and Walnut Spice Cake

  • Servings: 8 to 12-ish
  • Print
4 to 5 small firm Bosc pears, depending on the size of your pan
1 1/4 cups chopped walnuts
2 1/4 cups all-purpose Flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoons cardamom (optional)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar, packed
3 large eggs

Cream Cheese Glaze:
4 ounces (1/2 package) cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 to 4 tablespoons milk

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter and flour a 10 to 12 cup bundt pan, refrigerate.

Peel pears, slice in half, and scoop out seeds with a melon baller or spoon. Place cut side up on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Flip and bake 15 minutes more. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Spread walnuts in an even layer on a small baking sheet and toast for 5 to 8 minutes, or until they smell toasty. Do not let them burn. Set aside to cool. Reserve 1/4 cup for topping the cake.

Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, & spices together in a bowl. Set aside. Mix vanilla into buttermilk and set aside.
In a the bowl of and electric mixer, beat together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute or two and scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl between additions.
Alternate additions of flour and buttermilk, mixing on low just until combined, and scraping the bowl between each addition. Start and end with flour so there are 3 additions of flour and 2 of buttermilk. Stir in 1 cup walnuts until evenly distributed.

Pour about 3/4 of the batter into the prepared pan, and tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles. Push pear halves into the batter, top side facing down into the bottom of the pan, arranging them so the cut halves face each other as a whole pear. Arrange pears so they’re evenly spaced around the pan. Spread remaining batter over the top, leaving at least half an inch of room for the cake to rise so it doesn’t overflow in the oven. It’s okay if the pears stick out of the batter a bit, as the cake should rise around them. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove the cake from the oven, and cool in the pan for 30 minutes before turning it out onto a rack to cool completely.

While the cake cools, make the glaze.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese until it’s fluffy and smooth. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and 4 tablespoons of milk and blend until there are no lumps. If necessary, add more milk, a tablespoon at a time, beating after each addition until the glaze reaches the desired drizzle-able consistency. It should be about the consistency of thick melted ice cream to drizzle correctly.

Place a tray under cake and cooling rack to catch any drips. Pour glaze over cake and let the glaze work its way down the side, tapping the tray on the counter if necessary. Top with toasted walnuts.

Well covered in an airtight container, this cake should keep at room temperature about 2 days, or longer in the fridge. Just make sure to serve it at room temperature if you refrigerate it.

roasted pear and walnut spice cake bundt | Brooklyn Homemaker

The bundt bakers really outdid themselves this month, and all these perfect pear cakes have my mouth watering like crazy!

BundtBakers
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You can see all our of lovely Bundts by following our Pinterest board. Updated links for all of our past events and more information about #BundtBakers, can be found on our home page.
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zucchini peach bread

It’s officially September you guys. I know.

zucchini peach bread | Brooklyn Homemaker

Back to school season. Pumpkin spice everything. Sweaters in store windows…

While some people lament the end of summer and others celebrate the onset of fall, for all intents and purposes, it’s actually still summer. Like SUMMER. Dog days style.

zucchini peach bread | Brooklyn Homemaker

Here in Brooklyn we’re in the midst of yet another record-breaking heat wave. My backyard looks incredibly parched, sad, and droopy; and the heat over the past few days has felt downright oppressive and just generally awful. In fact, the other day many schools in the area announced they’d be letting out early because of a heat advisory, in their first week back!

zucchini peach bread | Brooklyn Homemaker

Trying to take full advantage of the extended summery weather, Russell and I took a trip to the farmer’s market over the weekend. I’ve been really stumped about what to do and make for the ol’ blog lately, because I’m having such a hard time deciding what would be considered seasonally appropriate right now. Last week I posted a recipe for some hot and steamy soup, and then the weather decided to follow my lead and went all hot and soupy too.

zucchini peach bread | Brooklyn Homemaker

I figured I should just go and see what spoke to me, and hoped I’d be able to make a plan from there.

Wandering the stalls of the market I was met with piles of gorgeous heirloom tomatoes and bushels of ripe sweet corn, but for some reason stacks of bright green zucchini were what called out to me, along with some seriously beautiful local peaches. But, what the heck could I do with peaches and zucchini in the same dish? I thought about just making a peach crumble or something, and then using the zucchini for dinner later on. I paid up and was on my way, and by the time I got home I knew what I had to do.

zucchini peach bread | Brooklyn Homemaker

When I was little I was a big fan of banana bread, especially my grandma’s banana bread. As I got older I started to develop a “distaste” for bananas that eventually blossomed into an intense hatred for bananas and anything banana related.

I usually pride myself in my openness to any food available to me, and my willingness to try anything someone might dare me to eat, but bananas are just an absolute no-no. I don’t know why, but I really can’t stand them. The tiniest piece of banana snuck into a smoothie deems it unfit for anything but the trash bin. Even the smell of them makes me retch, and my co-workers are well aware that eating a banana anywhere near me is absolutely forbidden.

zucchini peach bread | Brooklyn Homemaker

For the past few years there has been a banana bread shaped hole in my heart, but thankfully zucchini bread has stepped in to fill that giant void in my life.

So those bright green beauties fresh from some local farm had a clear and bright future, grated and baked inside a loaf of warm nutty quick bread, along with the tastiest peaches summer had to offer. (Thankfully we recently got a new AC unit so turning on the oven didn’t turn our tiny apartment into a sweltering inferno)

zucchini peach bread | Brooklyn Homemaker

These loaves are every bit as tender and moist and delicious as you could want, with a wonderful crunchy top thanks to the addition of some demerara sugar sprinkled on just before baking. They’re really the perfect transitional food between summer and fall. The zucchini and peaches are bright and fresh and summery, but they’re paired with warm autumnal spices and crunchy bitter walnuts. I never liked walnuts in my breads when I was younger, but I’ve learned to absolutely love the contrasting texture and flavor. I think the bright sweetness from the peaches really calls for the slight bitterness of the walnuts for balance, so I really recommend you don’t skip them.

The peaches aren’t really the stars of the show here, but take a backseat to the zucchini. The flavor is very similar to a normal (albeit really delicious) zucchini bread, with an added touch of sweet peachiness. I personally love the subtle addition of summer fruitiness, but if you’re looking for something with bright peach-forward flavor, I’m not sure this is the recipe for you. I added a little bit of wheat flour to soak up some of the extra moisture, but I fear that adding too many more peaches to the recipe could render your loaves dense and soggy.

zucchini peach bread | Brooklyn Homemaker

Zucchini Peach Bread

  • Servings: 2 loaves or approximately 24 muffins
  • Print
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

3 large eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup finely diced peaches
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon  table salt
3/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts
1/4 cup demerara sugar (or other coarse sanding sugar)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Liberally butter and flour two 8×4 inch loaf pans. Alternately, line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.

In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, oil, vanilla and sugar. Add zucchini and peaches and stir to combine.

Combine flours, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and walnuts. Whisk to combine. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour egg mixture in. Gently fold and stir just to combine. Do not over mix. Divide the batter into prepared pans and sprinkle each with demerara sugar.

Bake loaves for 60 minutes, plus or minus ten, or until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. If making muffins instead, they should bake for approximately 20 to 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes before removing from pans, and cool for at least 30 minutes more before slicing.

salted maple and molasses walnut brittle

Christmas is officially (almost) upon us, and I frankly couldn’t be more stressed.

salted maple and molasses walnut brittle | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’m going to take a second here to be totally honest with you. I hope you can handle it.

Number one, I work in retail.
The “most wonderful time of the year” also translates to the most hectic and agonizing time of the year to anyone who works in the service industry. Something about buying gifts to spread all that holiday happiness and joy really brings out the worst in people.

Beyond that, I’ve always been a little bit stressed by the holidays. The pressure to buy gifts for dozens of people gives me serious anxiety. Trying to make sure all the gifts fit the recipients in a truly thoughtful way, and that nothing should appear cheap or hasty, is just too much for me. Oddly enough, I also don’t really enjoy receiving gifts. I guess that’s kind of weird, but I don’t really need anything and something about giving people lists feel really disingenuous and unnatural to me. I’m also very particular and picky and often feel like I would rather just buy things for myself.

salted maple and molasses walnut brittle | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’m sure a lot of you are thinking I’m an awful scrooge and just a terrible human being in general, but I promise you that I’m not! It’s not that I hate the holidays, it’s just that there are a few aspects of this season that really rub me the wrong way. If Christmas was more about spending time and less about spending money, I’d like it so much more. As much as I resent the conspicuous consumption, I promise that there are actually are tons of aspects of Christmas that I really love!

salted maple and molasses walnut brittle | Brooklyn Homemaker

Any reason to spend real quality time with friends and family is great in my book, and I honestly really love the whole ritual of getting a tree and decorating the house and hanging stockings and all that. I also love all the food and sweets. Obviously.

salted maple and molasses walnut brittle | Brooklyn Homemaker

This time of year my grandmother would always have trays and trays of cookies and candies and snacks out for grazing, and one thing I could never resist was the peanut brittle. There’s just something about that caramel-y nutty crunchy salty sweet thing that really does it for me. It may not be true for most people, but peanut brittle (or any nut brittle for that matter) will always make me think of Christmas.

salted maple and molasses walnut brittle | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’d never made my own brittle before so I thought it would be fun to try something new this holiday season. Homemade gifts, and food gifts especially, have always felt so much more honest and heartfelt and true to me than any things you can buy in a store. After a test batch for myself, I decided that I liked my brittle so much that I would make a few extra batches to give out as a Christmas treats to our favorite businesses in the area where I work.

salted maple and molasses walnut brittle | Brooklyn Homemaker

The Williamsburg neighborhood (where Whisk is based) is growing into a major shopping district, but it’s historically been a small underdog neighborhood and the main shopping area is made up mostly of small independent shops. A lot of the shops and restaurants work really closely together, and this time of year we often exchange little treats and food gifts to help everyone through this hectic season.

The brittle was a huge hit, and it was really nice to get out of the store for a bit and see the smiles on everyone’s faces when I dropped off their cute little paper boxes wrapped up with bakers twine.

salted maple and molasses walnut brittle | Brooklyn Homemaker

This recipe is a really interesting twist on traditional peanut brittle. The toasted walnuts have a special kind of earthy bitterness that complements the sweetness of the candy really beautifully. Real maple syrup is a natural pairing with walnuts, and the addition of just a touch of molasses gives just a bit more depth and adds a rich caramel-iness. Adding a sprinkle of crunchy minerally fleur de sel or maldon sea salt elevates the whole experience with an adult elegance. This stuff is perfect.

It’s actually not difficult to make either, though you will need a candy thermometer since the addition of molasses makes it difficult to tell by color which stage the cooked sugar has reached. You’ll also want to use a much bigger pot than you think, because the sugar boils and bubbles up a lot!

Happy Holidays y’all!

salted maple and molasses walnut brittle | Brooklyn Homemaker

Salted Maple and Molasses Walnut Brittle

  • Servings: about 2 pounds of brittle
  • Print
adapted from Food & Wine

2 cups sugar
1/3 cup (real) maple syrup
3 tablespoons unsulphered molasses
1/2 cup water
1 stick unsalted butter
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
12 ounces chopped walnuts
2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon of Fleur de sel or crushed Maldon sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350F. Spread walnuts out in an even layer and toast for about 10 minutes or until they smell like heaven. Don’t leave them in too long or they could burn and become very bitter.

Combine sugar, water, butter, maple syrup, molasses, and corn syrup in a large stainless steel saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the caramel is thick with tight bubbles and registers 300° on a candy thermometer, about 10 or 15 minutes. Since the syrup and molasses give the mixture a dark color, it’s hard to tell if it’s reached the hard crack stage from color. I’d highly recommend the use of a candy thermometer.

Remove from the heat and carefully stir in the baking soda and cinnamon. Be careful, the mixture will bubble up. Stir in the walnuts, then immediately scrape the brittle onto a large rimmed buttered baking sheet. Using the back of a silicone spatula or spoon (oil it lightly if it sticks), spread the brittle into a thin, even layer. Work fast. Letting the candy cool too much before spreading can affect the texture. Immediately sprinkle with salt. Let cool completely, about 30 minutes. Break the brittle into large shards.