Now, the obvious solution would be to wait a bit, let the meal settle, and then go back for dessert. It works, and I've occasionally done that. Thanksgiving is the perfect example. Sitting around the table with 13 family members, all talking and laughing and sharing stories - it's easy to take time eating the meal, which many of us helped to make. It's one of the reasons I love this holiday. I get together with my family, whom I love, and it's about being together and sharing a meal - not about shopping for gifts.
At the end of that meal, we were treated to the traditional pumpkin pies, which my eldest brother has perfected. This year he experimented with 2 different crusts, both of which were perfect.
And then came my sister's walnut cake.
When I looked at it, I thought it might be somewhat dry. WRONG! It was perfect. I mean perfect as in this would be the cake to bring to any gathering and enjoy watching people's faces as they took their first bite. And then their second slice. And then watch them eying that last slice, debating whether or not to be polite and let someone else have it, or bold enough to reach for it themselves, halfheartedly offering to share. My sister, who has mastered the art of baking as well as anyone I've met, always offers an alternative to pumpkin pie for those who aren't partial to it. Every year it's terrific. This year it was an understated miracle.
I'm not certain where she got the recipe, but here it is as she sent it to me:
OLIVER'S GRANDMOTHER'SWITH SAUTÉED PEARS AND CINNAMON CREAM
1 stick of unsalted butter
5 eggs, room temp.
1/2 C flour
2 Tbls. Kirsch (I used 1 Tbls. Poire William)
Use 2 tea. of the butter to grease a 9" round baking pan. Line bottom with. Use 1 tea. of the butter to grease the paper.
Put walnuts on baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes til they darken slightly. Cool. Grind in processor to fine powder. In a large bowl, beat remaining butter with the sugar until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add nuts, flour, and kirsch. Mix well and pour into prepared pan. Bake approximately 30 minutes, depending upon oven. When cool, dust with xx sugar.
2 Tbls. unsalted butter
6 small or 4 large Bosc pears, cored, peeled, and cut into 1/4" dice
3/4 tea. ground cinnamon
1 tea. ground nutmeg
2 Tbls. fresh lemon juice
In a saute pan or skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat and cook the pears, stirring, for about 5 minutes, or just until softened. Sprinkle with the sugar. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemon juice and mix well. Cover to keep warm.
1 tea. ground cinnamon
Using an electric mixer set on medium-high speed, whip the cream and sugar until the cream is thick but not dry. Add the cinnamon and continue whipping until the cream is the desired consistency. Serve the cake topped with the pears and the cream.