From Suzanne Goin's book, Sunday Suppers at Lucques. This was prepared by Liza Hinman and served at our 2016 Harvest Dinner
5 ounces (about 1 heaping cup) blanched hazelnuts
½ pound unsalted butter, plus 1 tablespoon melted butter for the pan
½ vanilla bean
1+1/3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
5 extra-large egg whites
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream
Sautéed pears (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 350° F.
Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet, and toast 12 to 15 minutes, until they’re golden brown and smell nutty.
Cut out a circle of parchment paper to fit in the bottom of a round 10-inch cake pan. Brush the pan with a little melted butter, and line the bottom with the paper.
Place the rest of the butter in a medium saucepan. Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise down the center, and use a paring knife to scrape the seeds and pulp onto the butter. To make sure not to lose any of the seeds, run your vanilla-coated knife through the butter. Add the vanilla pod to the pan, and cook the butter and vanilla over medium heat 6 to 8 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally, until the butter browns and smells nutty. Set aside to cool. Remove the vanilla pod and discard.
Grind the hazelnuts with the confectioners’ sugar in a food process until they’re finely ground. Add the flour and pulse to combine. Transfer to a large bowl.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitters with the whisk attachment. Add the granulated sugar, and mix on high speed 4 to 5 minutes, until the mixture forms very stiff peaks. When you turn the whisk upside down, the peaks should hold. Transfer the whites to a large mixing bowl.
Alternate folding the dry ingredients and the brown butter into the egg whites, a third at a time. Remember to scrape the bottom of the brown butter pan with a rubber spatula to get all the little brown bits.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, and bake 1 hour. Cool on a rack 30 minutes. Run a knife around the inside edge of the pan, and invert the cake onto a plate. Peel off the paper and turn the cake back over onto a serving platter.
Whip the cream until it holds soft peaks.
Cut 6-8 wedges from the cake and place them on plates. Spoon the pears and their caramel juices over the cake. Top with dollops of whipped crea.
2 pounds Comice or Bartlett pears
½ vanilla bean
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Cut the pears in half lengthwise, leaving the stem intact. Cut each half into 1-inch wedges. (Don’t remove the core.)
Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise down the center, and use a paring knife to scrape the seeds and pulp onto the butter. To make sure not to lose any of the seeds, run your vanilla-coated knife through the butter.
Heat a large sauté pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Add the butter, vanilla, and vanilla pod to the pan. When the butter foams, place the pear wedges in the pan, cut side down. Season with the salt and cook 2 minutes. Sprinkle the sugar over the pears, and shake the pan to distribute the sugar and help it caramelize in the butter. Cook the pears about 6 minutes, basting them often with the butter, until they’re caramelized on the first side. Carefully turn the pears over and cook another 3 to 4 minutes, continuing to baste, until the second side is golden and the pears are tender but not mushy. Transfer them to a platter and keep them in a warm place.