Pears have been much loved for centuries. In fact, they’re referred to as a “gift of the gods” in Homer’s Odyssey, and some historians date them clear back to the Stone Age. Celebrated for their sensuous shape as well as their flavor, pears have been preserved in more recent history in still-life paintings by Renaissance masters and modern artists alike.
A member of the rose family and related to apple, raspberries and quince, pear trees were first brought to America by early colonists in the east. While these trees didn’t survive, those brought to the west by pioneers in the 1800s thrived. Today, the United States is the third largest pear producer in the world, after China and Italy. The trees still seem to prefer the west; eighty percent of the pears produced in the U.S. are grown in the Pacific Northwest, with Washington boasting the largest production.
Pears are a very good source of dietary fiber and a good source of vitamin C, vitamin K and copper. They also provides potassium. Be sure to eat the skins; studies show that the skin of pears contains at least three to four times as many phytonutrients as the flesh. It also contains about half of the pear’s dietary fiber.
There are over 3,000 varieties of pears worldwide but two varieties are go tos for a dessert like this. D’Anjou pears are egg-shaped, slightly citrusy and versatile. Anjous come in green and red. Bosc pears are long-necked and dense, with a tender flesh and brownish skin. Sweet and spicy, these are ideal for baking and cooking and also excellent in salads and for snacking.
Chocolate Pear Cake
• 1-1/2 c all-purpose flour
• 1-1/2 c light brown sugar
• 1/2 c cocoa powder
• 1 tsp baking soda
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 2 large eggs
• 1/2 c plain yogurt
• 1/2 c vegetable oil
• 2 tsp vanilla
• 2 c chopped unpeeled Bosc or Anjou pears, about 2
• Powdered sugar
Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch round baking pan with cocoa powder, reserve.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Whisk to combine, crushing any lumps of brown sugar with your fingers.
In a medium bowl whisk the eggs lightly, then add the yogurt, oil and vanilla and mix until smooth. Quickly stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture, and just as it comes together, stir in the pears. Spread in the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Let cool for 5 minutes on a rack before dusting with powdered sugar and cutting into 16 squares. Once the cake is completely cooled, it can be tightly wrapped and refrigerated for up to a week.
Recipe developed by National Co+op Grocers, a business services cooperative for natural food co-ops.