Chocolate Pear Cake

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The first few weeks in my new place of residence, the Monterey Bay, I am becoming acquainted with the new job and the folk it brings along with it, the farmers markets, the yoga schedules, and most importantly the new (to me) oven.

After woefully under cooking a perfect batter of spelt zucchini bread, I optimistically set my sights on a brand new recette: Chocolate Pear Cake. A friend of one of the roomies came over one day, with freshly picked pears from her tree... and that was enough to make her my friend too. I usually lean more toward the apple camp than the pear, but heck... throw in a bit of chocolate and Ill eat mostly anything. So, welcome fall with pears and chocolate. It just seems wrong not to.

I brought it into my new job at the restaurant, trying to gain baker/cook approval. So if you care it is La Bicyclette in Carmel, CA approved. Whatever that means to you.

Chocolate Pear Cake

For this recipe I used some barley flour along with almond meal because I like the soft and nutty crumb that it produces for cakes. But, if you want, you can always substitute the barley for regular or white whole wheat flour. The almond meal is a keeper.... although hazelnut flour would not be a bad call...

4 oz butter, unsalted
1/2 cup sugar
4 eggs
4 oz dark chocolate
1/4 cup barley flour
1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup almond flour or meal
4 TB cocoa powder
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
4 pears, halved and poached (origin: preferably from a neighbors tree)

Don't let this step deter you. C'est tres facil... easy peasy for you non-francophiles. Just bring 2-3 cups of water to a boil along with 1/2 cup of sugar. Throw in your halved pears, potentially having to add more water to cover them and let cook for about 20 minutes on medium heat or a low boil. When finished, they should be tender when pricked with a fork.

Set the oven to 350 F. Again, my friendly European the conversion. Butter a 9 or 10 inch round pan. Next, melt the chocolate and set aside. (Note: you can melt the chocolate by bringing one small saucepan with water to a boil and placing a larger bowl on top of the pot with the chocolate. This will ensure that your chocolate wont burn during the melting process) En suite, sift all of your dry ingredients together (flours, salt, baking powder, coco powder). In a separate bowl beat the butter and sugar together. After a couple minutes and the mixture is nice and fluffy, add in one egg at a time...incorporating each once well before adding the next. Then stir in the melted chocolate mixture. Finalement, go ahead and stir in the flour mixture in two separate parts. Don't over stir... or rather until just combined.

Pour batter into prepared cake pan and arrange the pears on top of the batter in a nice fashion. Push them down a bit. It should take 30 to 40 minutes depending on your oven. Remember convection bakers, your oven is an overachiever so watch your cakes extra carefully and maybe turn down the temperature a bit. You don't want to over bake this cake... it should be moist.

Serve with some fresh whipped cream and cozy up to the fireplace you may or may not need in this transitional seasonal period. But still... you have to love chocolate, pears, and coziness. You just have to.

Music Pairing
Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs. "New York City's Killing Me"
Hes so fall-y. And I just love his husky voice. Its almost as though he means what hes a sayin. Which sometimes feels like a rare find.

Cozy Breakfast

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My move to Monterey is swiftly becoming settled into the county where fall reigns year round.... or at least the morning time feels like it. We are welcomed by the perpetual AM cozy fog and the chilly damp air that can only be answered with warm cable knit socks, chai lattes, and fire places. And although I (and my renauds) love the heat, I also can't resist the feeling of a great fall.

I am still adjusting to the bizarre-ish hours of the restaurant life, eating either a rather early dinner or being pushed through a rushed plate late into the night sometimes not being hungry at all in the morning and other times tearing the cabinets open. This morning I woke up to the fog rolling in, yearning for something substantial to offset yesterday's time in the sun, greens, fruits, and bike riding with a warm and sturdy meal. Breakfast and cozy weather tells me two things: oatmeal and spices. So who the hell am I to argue?

Yesterday, perusing the Carmel Valley farmers market, I was called to some lovely carrots, just pulled from the ground, with the intention of making either carrot muffins with a strudel topping or a carrot cake loaf accompanied by (of course) cream cheese frosting. But this morning, I decided to forgo the two previous inclinations and fix myself a steaming bowl of carrot cake oatmeal. I always love when you can rationalize dessert for breakfast. Anywho... Spices. Check. Vanilla Soy. Check. Walnuts and Raisins. Double Check. It was my first bowl of the steaming stuff since last winter and it feels good to be back. Peter Rabbit and my childhood are mightily proud.

Carrot Cake Oatmeal
Serves 1 hungry gal

Everyone has their own favorite take on the glorious carrot cake. This oatmeal is made with pretty standard fare, and I don't think it needs a bit extra. It is soooo good. But, if you love your oatmeal with those extras, you will undoubtedly love your carrot cake oatmeal like that as well. Suggestions? Well, I've seen crushed pineapple, coconut, brown sugar wouldn't be a bad call, and maybe you could even mix in some cream cheese for the frosting effect? Might be gross, might be glorious. Let me know how it goes.

handful of rolled oats (I have rather large hands)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of wheat germ
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup grated carrot
1/4 cup walnuts
1/8 cup raisins
1/2 cup vanilla soymilk
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
pinch of salt
honey, to top it off

Start with a small saucepan. Turn the stovetop onto a low setting and place the oats, cinnamon, and wheat germ in the pan to toast them. After about 1 minute you can add the water and carrots. I like to let this cook for about a minute. I dont really know why... I just do it. Then go ahead and add the rest of the ingredients (except the honey) and let cook for about 10 minutes on low, covered. When the oatmeal is finished, wither add more soymilk if you like it runnier or cook the goodness with the lid off and it will become thicker. Top with honey and enjoy!

Music Pairing

I curled up in my chair with cozy socks and oatmeal in tow, so Jose Gonzalez seemed like the right fit the start of my oatmeal and foggy mornings. If I may suggest "Save Your Day" for obvious, oatmeal superhero-esque capabilities.
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