Brown Butter Cake with Bruised Pears and Walnuts
In honor of Earth Day last year, JBF Award winner Mario Batali tasked chefs from his restaurant group to fight food waste by creating recipes that employed "ugly food" that would otherwise end up in a landfill. We love this autumnal brown butter cake with bruised pears and walnuts, created byJustine MacNeil, executive pastry chef at the iconic Del Posto Ristorante.
1 1/4 cups walnuts
2 1/4 sticks butter
1 vanilla bean, scraped
1 tablespoon honey
2 very ripe medium pears
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
6 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare a 9-inch cake pan (either a springform pan or a cake ring) by lining the bottom with aluminum foil. Coat the lining with nonstick cooking spray.
Toast the walnuts, then let cool to room temperature. Once cooled, grind the walnuts as finely as possible, until so much oil has been released that the nuts become buttery. Set aside.
In a medium pot over high heat, combine the butter and vanilla and cook until the butter melts, whisking constantly until the butter browns. Look for a deep brown color and an extraordinarily fragrant smell. Pour the brown butter into a large bowl, then stir in the walnuts and honey. Set aside to cool. (Note: cooling the brown butter mixture to room temperature is essential. If you do not allow the mixture to cool, the heat of the butter will deflate the meringue.)
While the brown butter is cooling, peel the pears and discard any pieces that are particularly browned. Cut the pears into thin slices, discarding the core and seeds. Set aside.
When the butter mixture is cool but still fluid, stir in the flour and salt. Meanwhile, using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites at high speed. When the whites turn opaque, slowly add the sugar and continue to whisk until shiny and thick. Then, in three batches, gently fold in the brown butter mixture to incorporate.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and generously cover with the sliced pears. Bake for 45 minutes to one hour, until the top is golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean.
8 to 10 servings