Kuchen is German for cake. Here, a thin layer of tender, almond-flavored cake is the base for pears poached in maple syrup. This is delicious for afternoon tea or after a light supper, but it tastes even better at breakfast with coffee.
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3 1/2 pounds ripe but firm Bartlett or Anjou pears—peeled, halved, cored and quartered lengthwise
In a large deep skillet, toss the pears with the lemon juice. Arrange them in a single layer, add the maple syrup and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over moderate heat until the pears are almost tender, about 10 minutes. Turn the pears and cook, uncovered, until tender but not mushy, about 10 minutes longer, depending on the ripeness of the pears. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pears to a work surface and cut each piece in half lengthwise. Boil the maple glaze until reduced to 3/4 cup, 2 to 3 minutes; let cool.
Preheat the oven to 400° and butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. On a sheet of wax paper, sift the flour with the baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the 6 tablespoons of butter until creamy. Add 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the sugar and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 minutes. Beat in the almond extract and lemon zest. Beat in the egg until blended. Add the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the milk.
Drop tablespoonfuls of the batter evenly over the bottom of the baking pan. Using an offset spatula, spread the batter in a thin, even layer. Arrange the pears on the batter in 3 lengthwise rows, as close together as possible. Scatter the cherries over the pears. Brush the fruit with the 4 tablespoons of melted butter. In a small bowl, combine the nutmeg with the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. Sprinkle the sugar over the fruit and bake for 45 minutes, until the edges are browned and the pears are golden. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool. Cut the kuchen into squares, drizzle with the maple glaze and serve.
The kuchen can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.
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