This recipe is really elegant and will impress all your guests. They’re tasty, pretty and simple to prepare.
for the poached pears:
1 750 ml bottle dry white wine, such as Chablis
1 cup sugar
Juice of one lemon
1 cinnamon stick, cut in half
6 firm but ripe medium Bartlett pears
for the cakes:
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup blanched slivered almonds, toasted (6 ounces)
1 cup potato starch
¾ cup cottonseed or walnut oil, plus 2 teaspoons for greasing ramekins
1½ teaspoons baking powder (optional)
1 ½ tablespoons honey
6 egg whites
Peel pears, leaving stems intact, then remove core from the bottom using a melon-balling tool.
Combine wine, sugar, lemon and cinnamon in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add whole pears; bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer uncovered until pears are tender, about 30 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pears to a dish. Trim the base of each pear so that it is flat and can stand upright. Continue to boil poaching liquid, uncovered, until reduced to a syrup, about 10 minutes longer. Reserve syrup.
prepare the cakes:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease six 8 ounce ramekins with oil.
Pulse almonds with sugar, potato starch and baking powder in a food processor until almonds are finely ground and then transfer to a bowl. Whisk in oil and honey. Stir until mixture starts to clump together. Add egg whites; whisk until well blended.
Divide batter among ramekins (about a slightly rounded 1/2 cup per ramekin), then gently nestle a pear in the center, pressing it very lightly into the batter. (Cakes will rise around pears as they bake.)
Bake until cakes are just firm and pale golden with slightly darker edges, about 25 minutes.
Transfer ramekins to a rack and cool 10 minutes. Brush pears with reserved syrup and serve warm.
Pears can be poached 2 days ahead and chilled, covered. Proceed with recipe.