Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Hammer's Pineapple Upside Down Mini Bundt Cakes

Have you heard about Kitchens for Good? I first wrote about them last February in my Close to the Source blog for Edible San Diego. They were just getting underway with their pilot 13-week culinary job training program at the Jacobs Center. The course is designed for adults 18 and older who have had various barriers to employment.

Since then they've held three sessions, with graduates either continuing to work for their catering company at the Jacobs Center or going on to take other jobs.

I thought it would be interesting to have a cook date with one of the graduates and was set up with Lorne "The Hammer" Jones. What a cool guy. Jones is currently holding down three culinary jobs--at Draft Republic, Cueva Bar, and Delaware North, a food vendor for the Chargers. "I love Kitchens for Good," he said. "I love the people. It's so cool to be back here."

Jones got his nickname as an infantry machine gunner and company gunnery sargeant in the Marines. "It's all about leadership. The tag I had was being firm, fair, and constant--like a hammer." It's a nickname that's stuck, even after he got out of service following the Gulf War. But his time as a Marine also included working part-time in restaurants, both in Hawaii and Japan, where life is expensive, especially for someone married and in the service. For Jones those restaurant jobs, particuarly during the six years he was in Japan, were a great experience.

"Everything in Japan is very precise," he recalled. "I liked that their philosophy is to be humble. It's a sign of greatness to always be learning. The moment you meet someone who knows everything, run away from them."

Jones grew up the youngest of five kids. "My way into my mom's heart was through cooking. I just loved spending with her. So, I learned from her and taught myself, eventually making meals for my family. My inspiration was the love in her face. I gained a passion for food through love."

He also was a grandma's boy, spending every weekend with her and going to church with her all day Sunday. "She was an old Baptist lady and you go in the morning, step out for awhile to socialize, then go back in--all day," he laughed. Her cooking, too, for those special Sundays inspired him.

While Jones, who graduated last September in Kitchens for Good's third class, is well trained and well versed in savory cooking, his passion is baking. So for our time together he made his version of his beloved grandmother's Pineapple Upside Down Cake, but instead making individual cakes in molded mini-bundt pans. The cakes are easy for home cooks to make and well worth the effort. They're rich like a donut. The acid and sweetness of the pineapple complement the cake and that sublime caramel. Topped by Chantilly cream and even a maraschino cherry, the cake is a cool, retro dessert that should be in everyone's repertoire.

Pineapple Upside Down Mini Bundt Cakes
From Lorne Jones
(printable recipe)
Yield: 18 mini bundt cakes

For the batter
2/3 cup soft unsalted butter
1 1/3 cups of sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 1/3 cups of all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/3 cups milk
2, 20-ounce cans of pineapple rings, drained (10 rings per can)

For the caramel topping
1 stick of unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups of brown sugar

For the Chantilly cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Maraschino cherries to garnish

Pre-heat oven to 350°.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add butter and brown sugar. Slowly beat until thoroughly blended. Add the first egg and wait until it’s mixed in before adding the second egg. Once it’s incorporated, stop the mixing process and scrape down the bowl. Then add the third and fourth eggs, waiting in between until the third is fully incorporated. Add vanilla. Stop and scrape the bowl again.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Little by little add the flour mixture to the wet mixture. Alternate with adding the milk. When everything is fully blended and the batter slowly slides off a spatula it’s ready.

Fill three gallon-size plastic storage bags with the batter—fill each one about half way. Use twine to tie each off at the top above the batter. Set aside.

To make the caramel, add the stick of butter to a pan and slowly melt over low heat. When it’s almost melted add the brown sugar. Stir and heat low and slow—don’t bring the mixture to a boil. When it just starts to simmer, remove it from the heat and stir.

Pour about a tablespoon of the caramel into each mini bundt pan. Place one pineapple ring on top of the caramel in each pan. Pick up one of the batter bags and cut off the tip, about half an inch. Carefully pipe batter on top of each pineapple ring to about halfway up the mini bundt pan. When that’s empty, use the second and so on until you’ve filled all the pans. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes. Using a toothpick, insert in the center of one or two to make sure they’re fully baked. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

While the cakes are baking, make the Chantilly cream. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the whipping cream. Turn on the mixer and slowly bring up the speed to whip. Once the cream becomes frothy and soft peaks form, slowly add the powdered sugar. Then add the vanilla. Continue whipping until you have fluffy stiff peaks. Cut the tip off a large plastic storage bag. Insert a star piping tip. Carefully spoon Chantilly cream into the bag. Refrigerate until ready to use.

When the cakes are finished baking, remove them from the oven. Turn the parchment-lined sheet pan over the cakes and quickly flip them so the cakes rest on the parchment right-side up. Let cool. To plate, place a cake on a dessert plate. Pipe the Chantilly cream into the hole in the center of the cake. Top with a maraschino cherry. Serve.

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