Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Retro Reverse

You may remember I mentioned that we drove to Tampa a couple weeks ago to celebrate the brithday of one of my oldest (literally, haha, Richard!) and dearest friends.  We really have been friends for years.

As wedding plans were in progress for Henry and me (a hundred years ago), Henry made a last hurrah trip to Alaska and I made one to the beach in Sarasota.  Dick met me there and we hung out for a few rainy days, stuck in the hotel room while I addressed wedding invitations.

We once had too much to drink and weaved our way through the Kapok Tree restaurant in Clearwater singing Janis Joplin's "Mercedes Benz" at the top of our lungs.  And we swore years ago we would go to the old folks' home together.  Of course, if we ever do, we will take the place by storm - cooking storm, that is.  He and I are both passionate about it.

He swears I taught him how to make risotto.  I think he's so old, he forgets.  He probably taught me.  For his birthday last week, I gave him a copy of Thomas Keller's AD HOC AT HOME.  I challenged him to cook his way through it and he probably thought I was kidding.  Guess what, my friend?  I meant it!  Get cooking, boy!  Throwdown!

I've got a head start.  I've already made Ad Hoc Brownies and now I have made Ad Hoc Pineapple Upside Cake.  Bring it on, Simpson!

Let's talk about pineapple upside down cake.  I love this dessert.  Next to bread pudding, it's probably the dessert I love the most (no fancy stuff for me, sorry).  My grandmother (who lived in the house I recently posted pictures of) made a good version and that's where I learned to love it.  Yeah, it's pretty retro.  Remember it with the perfectly arranged concentric canned pineapple rings with maraschino cherry halves in the centers?  Oh, so fifties!

Thomas Keller has now updated it with the use of a silicon baking pan (genius!) and a brown sugar pan "schmear."  His "schmear" method eliminates the graininess of the original brown sugar topping.  And of course he has eliminated the maraschino cherries.  Good call, Thomas!

PINEAPPLE UPSIDE CAKE  (from Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller)

Pan Schmear:
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon dark rum
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 teaspoon vanilla paste or pure vanilla extract
Kosher salt

1 Gold (extra-sweet) pineapple

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine butter, honey, rum, brown sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth and well-blended.  Spread 1/3 cup of the schmear over the bottom of a 9-inch round silicone cake pan.  Sprinkle lightly with salt.  (The remaining schmear can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks or frozen for up to 1 month; bring to room temperature before using).

Cut the top and bottom from the pineapple and cut away the peel.  Cut the pineapple lengthwise into quarters and cut off the core from each section.  Cut each piece crosswise into 1/8-inch thick slices.  Beginning at the perimeter of the pan, make an overlapping ring of pineapple slices with the curved side facing out.  Make a second ring inside the first one, overlapping the slices in the opposite direction, working toward the center of the pan.  Reserve any extra pineapple for another use.

1 2/3 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste
2 large eggs (I used extra-large because that's what I had on hand)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon milk

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.  Sift flour and baking powder together; set aside.  Put the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed to combine, then beat on medium speed for about 3 minutes until light and creamy, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary.  Mix in the vanilla.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating until the first one is incorporated before adding the second and scraping down the sides as necessary.  Beat in the milk.  Add the flour mixture in three parts, beating until just combined.

Pour the batter into the pan and spread over the pineapple.  Bake for 15 minutes then rotate the pan and continue baking for another 20 to 25 minutes until a cake tester or skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Cool the cake on a cooling rack for 20 to 30 minutes.

Run a knife around the edges of the cake, invert onto a serving platter and serve warm.  Leftover cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Serves 8

As usual, I have a couple of things to say.

First of all, if you can't find vanilla paste in your local store, Amazon sells it. 

Second, it is well worth it to buy yourself a silicon baking pan if you don't already own one.  It makes getting the sucker out of the pan MUCH easier without leaving half of the topping in the bottom.  I got mine at Bed Bath and Beyond for about $10. 

I've got mixed reviews on this recipe.  As I said earlier, I like the "schmear" idea.  But I didn't think there was enough of it, so I would probably use the entire amount next time.  Then again, if you don't want your cake to be very sweet, you might disagree with me.  Personal preference.

This recipe produces a cake with a very fine crumb.  I might like that for another cake, but I sort of like a more "homespun" version for a comfort food recipe like this.  I also thought it was too dry.  Next time I make it, I would cut down slightly on the baking time.  I would also consider serving it with a little freshly whipped cream.

Do you remember "Fried Green Tomatoes?"  I was lucky enough to be on the food styling team for that movie.  The sushi Kathy Bates ate was brought to the set personally by me!  See the plate in this picture?  I have 15 of them.  They were some of the props we used for the Whistle Stop Cafe.  Cool, huh?

Speaking of plates?  Step up to it, Simpson!


  1. Liz my dear. The challenge is on. But you have to let me get to my retirement to start on Ad Hoc. Nice pic of you, but who is that old guy with you? On to Chicago this weekend. We have been unsuccessful in getting reservations to Rick Bayless' restaurants, but we may just show up at Frontera when the doors open to see what we can do. We will eat well regardless.

  2. WOW!!! Now THAT was a thROW DOWnnnnn!!!! Love it!