I saw a recipe for a fruited upside down gingerbread loaf in a vegetarian cookbook a few years ago.  I have since misplaced the cookbook, but still crave this recipe.  I think the recipe used apples instead of pears, so feel free to substitute.  But the first pears have come off the trees in our area and I could not be more thrilled!  Pears are quite the teases of the fruit world.  They sit on the tree all summer long, their shoulders reddening in the hot sun, but are not ready to be picked until early fall. 

One more little note on pears:  the green pears you see at the grocery store are not ripe.  A truly ripe Bartlett pear is yellow and soft.  I never knew this until I moved to California, where knowing when each seasonal fruit is ripe is like a religion.

Upside-Down Pear Gingerbread

For the topping:
1 6-ounce medium-ripe pear
1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
½ teaspoon lemon juice

For the gingerbread:
¾ cup + 2 tablespoons unbleached flour
1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup canola oil
3 tablespoons applesauce
¼ cup + 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
3 tablespoons molasses (not blackstrap)

Begin by preheating the oven to 350° and greasing a 6” round cake pan with butter.

First, peel the pear, slice in half and core it with a melon baller.  Cut each pear half into 8 equal sized pieces.  Add the pears, butter, brown sugar and lemon juice to a small skillet.  Turn on the heat to medium-high and cook until a bubbling syrup forms around the pears, about 3-4 minutes.  Immediately pour the pears into the bottom of the cake pan.  Let cool before trying to arrange them in a circle. 

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, salt and baking soda.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the canola oil, applesauce and brown sugar.  Whisk this mixture very well to dissolve the brown sugar.  Add the molasses and whisk to combine.  Switch to a spatula and fold in the flour mixture in three increments.  The batter will seem stiff compared to most gingerbread recipes.  Spread the batter over the pears as best you can—some butter will rise up the sides of the batter.  Bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Let the cake sit on a wire rack for 15 minutes before inverting on a serving plate.  Serve warm with cinnamon flavored whipped cream.