Serious Eats: Recipes
Cook the Book: Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
Pineapples are not a fruit that I think about on a regular basis. I have nothing against them but they've never been part of my regular fruit rotation and anyone who witnessed me struggle to pick out a ripe one at the market today can attest. You see, I stood in front of the mountainous pile of pineapples for a solid five minutes staring blankly, trying to remember any shred of pineapple knowledge that might be hidden deep in the recesses of my brain. I finally decided that smell was as good a judge as any and went about smelling a good portion of the pineapples. Eventually I found one that smelled, well, like a pineapple, threw it into the cart and made my way home to attempt a very unlikely dessert.
When I saw a recipe for Pineapple Upside-Down Cake in Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller I must admit that I was a bit taken back. This was not the kind of refined, elegant dessert that I expected to see from such a lauded chef. To me pineapple upside-down cake means syrupy canned pineapple slices, glowing red maraschino cherries, and lots of gloopy cake batter made from a boxed mix, purely 1960s housewife stuff. But once I got to reading through the recipe it became clear that this isn't all that different from a tarte tatin, caramelized fruit baked underneath a layer of sweet pastry or in this case, cake.
Of course there are no cans of Dole pineapple rings in Keller's version, and no jarred cherries for that matter. Keller uses fresh, sweet-tart pineapple layered on top of what her refers to as a "schmear", a mixture of vanilla and rum scented butter and brown sugar. The "schmear" is sprinkled with a touch of kosher salt and then topped with carefully placed slices of pineapple. The cake batter is layered on top and the cake is baked until the top is golden and the "schmear" caramelizes the pineapple and bubbles up around the edges.
Once the cake cooled enough to be inverted I ran a knife around the edges and flipped it over to reveal perfectly caramelized spices of pineapple coated with a golden glaze of rum infused goo. I sliced into the cake and was thrilled to see that the pineapple had not been cooked into mush, the slices still had plenty of texture and retained a tart tanginess.
There was nothing kitschy or dated about this cake, the flavors were complex and totally cohesive, delicious and surprising. For what ever reason pineapple upside-down cake has fallen out of fashion, I think that it's about time to bring it back.
Win Ad Hoc at Home
As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Ad Hoc at Home to give away this week.