Halloween is just around the corner, time for miniature candy bars and other sugary treats for kids. To help grown-ups celebrate the holiday, we've put together a list of suggested dessert wines in a variety of styles, along with a recipe for Orange-Scented Pear Upside-Down Cake.
You may vary some of the cake's ingredients to suit your tastes, the state of your pantry, and the characteristics of the dessert wine you'll be pouring. For instance, if you want a tarter citrus flavor, substitute lemon or lime zest for orange. Maple lovers can replace some or all of the honey with maple syrup. If you don't have brown sugar on hand, substitute 1 cup granulated white sugar. Use apples (cut into sixths instead of quarters) instead of pears if you prefer their flavor or have an abundance leftover from a recent autumn orchard visit. If you want your cake to have a bit of nutty crunch, sprinkle chopped walnuts or hazelnuts or sliced almonds over the batter before baking. If you're lucky enough to have some Banyuls vinegar on hand, reduce 1/4 cup of it by half over low heat in a saucepan and drizzle over the warm cake just before serving to create synergy with a glass of Banyuls wine.
Happy Halloween, and happy baking!
ORANGE-SCENTED PEAR UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup orange blossom honey
4 medium-size ripe pears, peeled, cored and cut into quarters
3/4 cup brown sugar
Grated zest of 1/2 an orange
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso
2 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
2. In a small saucepan, heat the butter over low heat until melted. Remove from heat, transfer to a small, shallow bowl and let cool, uncovered, in refrigerator.
3. Place the honey in a 9- or 10-inch ovenproof pan over medium heat and cook at a simmer for about 7 to 10 minutes. Add the pears to the pan, gently tossing or turning with a wooden spoon or spatula, to evenly coat each with the honey. Continue to cook at a simmer, gently turning once, for 8 minutes, then remove from the heat and place in the oven, uncovered, to cook for about 20 minutes, or until very easily pierced with the tip of a paring knife.
4. About five minutes before the pears are done cooking, combine the sugar, zest and espresso, if using, in a mixing bowl and mix well with a wooden spoon or whisk. Whisk in the eggs, then stir in the flour and salt, taking care not to over-mix, which will make the cake tough. Stir in the butter, making sure it is well-incorporated.
5. Remove the pears from the oven and pour the batter over them, using a spatula if necessary to gently distribute the batter across the fruit. Decrease the oven’s heat to 350° F and bake for 30 minutes. Remove and let cool, then gently invert onto a cake stand or large plate. Serve warm, with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream if desired. Serves 8.