My Google calendar looks sort of like a game of Tetris, played by someone who really knows how to play, like my mother-in-law. (Really, you should see her play - it's unbelievable.) It feels like it, too. As soon as I fit something in, something else comes floating down from the top of the screen.
Here's some good news: this gingerbread has to bake for more than an hour. And then it has to cool. So put it together, pop it in the oven, and check some other things off your list while your house fills with the smell of spicy sweet gingerbread. When it's cooled, put on your favorite Christmas music, make yourself a cup of tea, sit in front of your tree, and enjoy a slice. It is dense, moist and spicy. It's got molasses, honey, caramelized pears and pecans, and three kinds of ginger. And hopefully it's just the thing to scare your inner Grinch away, so that you can really enjoy this wonderful time of year!
Caramelized Pear Gingerbread
Adapted from 101cookbooks.com
1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup unsulphured molasses
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup milk (2%)
1 tablespoon freshly ground ginger root
1/3 cup minced crystallized ginger
3 firm ripe pears, such as Bosc, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch slices
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped pecan halves
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
In a medium saucepan, combine butter, water, molasses, honey, and brown sugar. Place the pan over low heat, and stir frequently until butter is melted and ingredients are well combined. Remove from heat, and pour mixture in a bowl to cool. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, ground ginger, cinnamon, allspice and cloves, and set aside.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large heavy skillet over high heat. Add pears, and cook about 3 minutes, until beginning to caramelize. Stir in pecans, brown sugar, and cinnamon, and cook a couple more minutes, until pears are soft but still retain their shape. Remove from heat and set aside.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly coat the inside of a nonstick Bundt pan with cooking spray, and pour pear mixture into the bottom, spreading evenly. Add eggs to cooled molasses-butter mixture, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add milk and stir to combine. Fold in dry ingredients, and don't let the lumps get you down - they'll take care of themselves. Stir in fresh and crystallized gingers, and pour batter gently over the pears in the pan. Place cake pan on a cookie sheet and bake 75-90 minutes, until top of cake springs back when lightly touched, and cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
Allow cake to cool 15 minutes in the pan, and then gently invert it onto a wire rack to cool completely. This is pretty tricky, since the cake pan is still hot. I put the rack upside-down over the cake pan, and then used a kitchen towel to flip it over. It would be nice to have a friend help you with this, but you can totally do it on your own.
The cake keeps well in the fridge. Allow it to come back to room temperature before serving, to get the full moisture and texture back. 15 seconds per slice in the microwave works well, too, if you don't have hours and hours to wait (aka if you want to eat it for breakfast).