Sometimes I envy home cooks who are firmly entrenched in a regional tradition, and make the classic dishes of their cuisine with the confidence normally associated with breathing. While it is a pleasure to investigate new foods and preparations, it is also a (different sort of) pleasure to entirely lose yourself in what you are doing,as if you were on a roll painting, or listening to music or something. And then,too, it is so interesting when individual cooks put their own stamp on some such traditional dish, and discuss the variations among themselves.
Many North American home cooks, as I do, try out and adopt a wide range of dishes with origins beyond our regions, from different culinary traditions. I guess is not surprising, given our "melting pot" population. It has given us a freedom with our food that has only recently been available to cooks elsewhere. There are a few dishes, though, which feel quite uniquely American, and which carry with them the sort of feeling of home that say, a Belgian might associate with moules and frites.
One such delicacy is the BLT. Made with the necessary in-season juicy sub-acid local tomato, crispy bacon, tender lettuce, and a slick of mayo, this is a unequaled flavor and texture extravaganza which, as far as I know, has no precise non-american equivalent. Excluding vegetarians, and folks who keep kosher or traditional Muslim homes, the BLT is pretty much universally beloved. I am eagerly awaiting the first tomatoes of the year, so I can make some.
Another is the pineapple upside-down cake. It is hard to find anyone who dislikes this dessert, which became suddenly popular around the turn of the (20th) century, when canned pineapple began appearing all over the US, for the first time. It has remained a popular classic. The subsequent inexplicable craze for cake mixes and fear of scratch baking does not seemed to have touched this recipe. I don't know anyone who makes this cake with a mix, it's just too simple to bother. Generally, if you are served some, you can be sure it will be pretty good, and will not have weird chemical tastes and textures.
Okay, the PUDC does have something in common with inverted pies and cakes originating elsewhere, but not much. This gooey, fruity, buttery-cake stuff is really nothing like a tart tatin at all. The following version, based on the one in the Gourmet Cookbook, is gussied up with the use of fresh pineapple and (my addition of) homemade maraschinos. It is also made in (overlarge) individual servings, which I think perhaps is not the best idea. I succumbed to the lure of using my sweet mini-tube pans. It's all very cute, but really, this sticky cake is both easier, and better looking, made as one large circle or square. Often, it is made in a cast-iron skillet, which really does the trick, topping-wise.That way, too, you can give people custom-sized portions.
The maraschino cherries are made, quite simply, by soaking good quality dried sweet cherries in maraschino liquor for a couple of weeks. They keep almost indefinitely in the fridge, and are always a delightful surprise anyplace you might expect to see a commercial maraschino plopped. The hardest part of making them is finding the lovely Luxardo Maraschino liquor. Kirsch is really not an adequate substitute. I also dribbled a bit of the cherry-soaking liquor over the top of the upended pineapple. I believe that in one of the Marcella Hazan books, she said that you could make a popular simple Italian dessert, by drizzling maraschino liquor over canned pineapple slices. I think it's nice on the cake, too.
Here's what you need-I don't see why you couldn't make this same recipe in an 8" pan, cooking a bit longer. but I haven't actually tried that with this exact recipe, which makes 6 individual cakes, the size of mini-bundts.
unsalted butter, 4 tbsps
dark brown sugar 1/3 cup
6 slices fresh pineapple
cake flour 1 1/2 cups
baking powder 2 tsps
milk 1/2 cup
vanilla 1 tsp
unsalted butter, softened 6 tbsps
sugar 3/4 cup
egg yolks 2 large
1/4 cup homemade maraschinos and their liquor
Use a nonstick mini cake an or xtra large (i cup ea.) muffin tin. Spray with a bit of light tasting oil spray. Preheat oven to 350F.
Melt butter in a small saucepan or in a microwave. Stir in brown sugar until dissolved. Pour mixture into each min, dividing equally. Fit one pineapple ring in the bottom of each mini pan.
Cake: Mix butter and sugar with electric mixer, until light and creamy. Mix in vanilla. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl with whisk, set aside.
Add yolks to mixer, beat well. Mix dry ingredients and milk alternately, at a low speed, stopping when just mixed. Spoon mixture into minis, dividing equally. Smooth down a bit, and bake 25-30 minutes, or until pufy and pale gold. Cool 15 minutes on rack, then invert onto another rack. If you have mini tube pans like mine, you can fill the holes with your little cherries. If they are smooth topped cakes, push one cherry into the surface, mid-pineapple slice. Drizzle with maraschino liquor, or if you haven't got any, a little rum. Cool completely and serve, with whipped cream if you really want to go to town.