‘Round the Table: Break out the Apron, It’s Baking Season!

Spring may be the season of cleaning, but we Southerners know that fall is the season for baking. We welcome fall with softened butter, flour-dusted work surfaces and extra sugar in the pantry. We stock up on staples like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, vanilla and pecans, always pecans.

In all seriousness, now is the time to sort through your spices, extracts and equipment to make sure everything is in tiptop shape. Check supplies of parchment paper, freezing wraps and airtight storage containers. Sort through favorite recipes and seek out new holiday baking challenges. Free up fridge, freezer and pantry space, clean the oven and last, but not least, put the diet on hold for a few months.

The idea of cooking an upside down cake is an old technique. It was easy for cooks to add sugar and fruit to the bottom of a pan and pour a simple cake batter over it. When flipped on the plate the Upside Down Cake was instantly decorated with pretty fruit and a sweet glaze.

This version of Upside down cake takes a break from fruit and re-invents itself Southern style; baked in a cast iron skillet and full of pecans, I’m sure it will be love at first bite. If you’re not a fan of bourbon, substitute apple cider.

Pecan Upside Down Cake is perfect for fall dessert, or breakfast or lunch.

Pecan Upside Down Cake

Yield: 1 (9-inch) cake

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups of cake flour (reserve ¼ cup for dredging nuts)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt
  • ½ cup plus 2 Tablespoons of whole buttermilk
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • Bourbon Brown Sugar Sauce (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 35-0°F. Spray a 10” cast iron skillet with non-stick spray; set aside.

In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter at medium speed until creamy, and then beat in the sugar until the mixture is fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.

Beautifully arranged pecans; hopefully they will be pretty when the cake is turned out.

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. With the mixer set to low speed, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in thirds, alternating with the buttermilk and beginning and ending with the flour. Dredge the chopped pecans in the reserved ¼ cup of flour and then fold in the pecans and excess flour to the batter. Set the batter aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together the melted butter and brown sugar until well combined. Add the cream, stirring until smooth. Pour the brown sugar mixture into the prepared pan and arrange the pecan halves decoratively over the brown sugar mixture. Spoon the batter over the pecan halves.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Run a knife around the edges to loosen and immediately invert the cake onto a serving plate. Serve with warm Bourbon Brown Sugar Sauce.

Bourbon Brown Sugar Sauce

Yield: approximately 1 ¾ cups

 

  • 1 cup of firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup brandy (alternatively use ¼ cup apple cider)
  • 3 Tablespoons of water
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 Tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon heavy whipping cream

In a medium sized heavy saucepan, combine the brown sugar, bourbon or apple cider, water, butter, corn syrup, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 2 more minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and stir in the cream.

Transfer to a small serving bowl and let cool 30 minutes before serving.

Cherry Brie Galette

Yield: 6 servings

A pie by any other name would taste as sweet!

A pie is comfortable; a tart is fancy and a crostata splits the difference. The French call this a galette; the Italians call it a crostata, and here in the good ole U.S. we refer to this type of pie as a No-Pan Pie. Whatever you call it, this free form rustic pie, chock full of cherries, creamy Brie and slivered almonds is easy as pie.

  • 2 cups of frozen cherries, thawed
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon of cornstarch dissolved in
  • ¼ cup of water
  • 1 recipe for 9” piecrust or 1 refrigerated
  • 9” piecrust
  • 2 ounces of Brie, peeled and cubed
  • ¼ sliced almonds
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tablespoon water
  • Kosher salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

Place the cherries and their juice, sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan set over medium high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil; stir in the cornstarch dissolved water and return to the boil. Boil until the mixture has thickened. Remove from the heat to cool while you prepare the pastry.

Unroll the piecrust onto a lightly floured surface. Roll into a 10” circle. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Top with the cooled cherry mixture, cubes of Brie and sliced almonds.

Pull up the sides of the crust, overlapping and rolling over the filling. Cover the filling by 2 inches.

Beat the egg with the water to make an egg wash. Transfer the crostata to a parchment covered baking sheet. Brush the pastry edge with egg wash and sprinkle with Kosher salt.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Cool for 10 to 15 minutes