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Buttermilk Cake with Riesling-Poached Pears

Photo: Michael Turek
Active time 40 mins
Total time 1 hr, 40 mins
Yield 10
"We get these crazy organic pears that are ugly as sin," says Tory Miller of the Moon-glow variety he uses throughout the cold winter months. Peeling them, though, reveals a fruit so beautiful and juicy that he prefers a minimalist approach, either serving them raw or poaching them in wine, such as the Riesling he uses here.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 5 Bartlett pears
  • 1 750-milliliter bottle Riesling
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
  • 1 3-inch-long strip of orange zest
  • 3 star anise pods
  • 1 cup crème fraîche
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
  • 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar

How to Make It

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a 9-inch cake pan and line it with a 9-inch round of parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper.

  2. In a bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, using a handheld mixer, beat the butter with both sugars at medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the yolks, one at a time, beating well between additions. Beat in the lemon zest and vanilla extract. At low speed, alternately beat in the flour mixture and the buttermilk until almost blended. With a rubber spatula, finish folding the mixture together just until smooth. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 35 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack to cool completely.

  3. Peel and halve the pears. With a spoon, scoop out the cores and discard. In a large saucepan, combine the Riesling, water, sugar, vanilla bean and seeds, orange zest and star anise pods. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the pear halves and simmer over moderate heat, turning once, until tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer the pears to a large plate. Discard the star anise, vanilla bean and orange zest. Boil the Riesling poaching liquid over high heat until reduced to 1 cup and syrupy, about 15 minutes. When the pears have cooled, slice them lengthwise 1/3 inch thick.

  4. In a small bowl, combine the crème fraîche, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds and confectioners' sugar.

  5. Unmold the cake onto a plate and peel off the paper. Cut the cake into 10 wedges and transfer to plates. Place a sliced pear half alongside each cake slice. Spoon some of the Riesling syrup over the cake, top with some vanilla crème fraîche and serve.