Thursday, July 24, 2014

Almond-Crusted Pear Tres Leches Cake

Meagan Micozzi’s The New Southwest: Classic Flavors with a Modern Twist presents not only a book full of terrific Southwestern recipes, but also a compendium of classic Southwestern elements, ingredients, and techniques, updated for the modern kitchen. There is a whole section devoted to “The Southwestern Pantry” which describes appropriate spices & herbs, produce, dairy, pantry staples, and more. There is even a whole section devoted to chile peppers.

Micozzi presents the building blocks needed to create your own authentic Southwestern menu. From basic condiments (Salsa Verde, Agave Ancho Butter, Roasted Crema) to menu staples (Corn Tortillas, Navajo Fry Bread, Chorizo), you will be equipped to make a simple Southwestern-inspired breakfast (Mushroom & Leek Migas, Pinyon Butter Oatmeal), or even a complex, multi-course dinner, complete with beverages (Sangrita, Cucumber & Melon Agua Fresca), appetizers (such as Salsa Bandera Chicharrones or Black Bean & Corn Quesaditas), main courses (like Picadillo Meatloaf with Habanero Ketchup, or Citrus & Herb Red Snapper), and desserts (try the Brown Butter Coyotas, or even Grilled Apple Pie). Speaking of desserts, I was inspired to try the Almond-Crusted Tres Leches Cake. The addition of almonds and pear were perfect updates to the classic dessert, and I opted to add touches of canela, or Mexican cinnamon, after reading about its authenticity in the Southwestern pantry. The almond/graham crust was rich and nutty, and the subtle addition of pear blended perfectly with the creamy milks.

The New Southwest is a very informative book, with lots of inspired recipes to try. The recipes are well-written, concise, and easy to follow.

Almond-Crusted Pear Tres Leches Cake
by Gary
Adapted from The New Southwest by Meagan Micozzi

Serves 8-10

For the crust:
9 whole graham crackers
1/2 cup whole almonds
1/2 cup almond meal (may be made by pulverizing whole or slivered almonds)
8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking soda
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
1/2 cup whole buttermilk
1 can (15-ounce size) light sliced pears, drained and liquid reserved

For the soak:
1/4 cup whole milk
1 can (14-ounce size) sweetened condensed milk
1 can (12-ounce size) can evaporated milk
1 cup pear juice (from the can of light sliced pears)
1 pinch canela

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Line a 9-inch springform pan with a depth of at least 3 inches with parchment and set aside.

To make the crust: Break the graham crackers into large pieces and place with the whole almonds in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process to a coarse meal. Remove to a large bowl and toss together with the almond meal and melted butter. Spread the very damp mixture over the bottom of the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, to prepare the cake: Whisk the flour and baking soda together in a large bowl, and set aside. In another large bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar. Slowly beat in the dry ingredients, alternating with the buttermilk in approximately four portions. Mix just until you have a uniform batter. Pour the batter over the crust and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove cake from oven and set aside to cool at least 10 minutes before unmolding.

To prepare the soak: Whisk the whole milk, condensed milk, evaporated milk, pear juice, and canela together in a large bowl. Once the cake has cooled, release it from the pan, remove the parchment paper, and set the cake on a rimmed platter. Using a wooden skewer, poke a series of holes through the top of the cake and pour the soak over the top. Set the cake aside to allow the soak to be absorbed. Serve cake either chilled from the refrigerator or at room temperature. Garnish with reserved pear slices.

Many thanks to the publisher for providing copies of The New Southwest to 37 Cooks for review.

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