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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Pears, Pears, Everywhere!

It's a happy hump day! Today let's discuss a fruit that, while I love, for a long time I just couldn't stand! In culinary school I always seemed to draw the pear straw, always ending up making the recipes that involved pears. I was on pear overload! Luckily, it's been a few years since then and my love of pears has been reinstated. So today I'm bringing you 3 ways to prepare pears for a delicious and elegant finish to your fabulous dinner table. Enjoy!

Honey-Caramelized Pears with Orange-Vanilla Flan
Julian Serrano

  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 oranges, zest removed with a vegetable peeler
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 2 2/3 cups sugar
  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • Vegetable oil, for coating
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 lemon, zest removed with a vegetable peeler
  • 10 firm Bartlett pears (about 1/2 pound each)—peeled, halved and cored
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup honey
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the milk with the cream, half of the orange zest, half of the vanilla bean and 2/3 cup of the sugar and bring just to a simmer. Let the custard cool to room temperature, then whisk in the egg yolks and whole eggs. Transfer the custard to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 250°. Lightly coat ten 3- to 4-ounce ramekins with vegetable oil and arrange them in a roasting pan. Strain the custard into a large glass measuring cup and pour it into the ramekins, filling them about three-quarters full. Add enough hot water to the roasting pan to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Transfer the roasting pan to the oven and bake for about 1 hour or until the flans are set. Carefully remove the ramekins from the water bath and let them cool to room temperature. Refrigerate the flans until well chilled, about 4 hours.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, combine the water with the lemon zest and the remaining 2 cups of sugar, orange zest and vanilla bean. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the pears and cover with a heatproof plate or pot lid that's slightly smaller than the saucepan, to keep the pears submerged. Simmer over moderately low heat until the pears are just tender and a knife inserted in the thickest part comes out easily, about 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pears to a platter. Let the pears and poaching liquid cool separately.
  4. Divide the butter and honey between 2 large skillets and bring to a boil. Cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden, about 4 minutes. Add half of the pears to each skillet, cut side down, and cook, turning occasionally, until golden and beginning to caramelize, about 12 minutes. Add 3/4 cup of the reserved pear poaching liquid to each skillet and cook over moderate heat, turning and basting the pears, until the liquid reduces to a thick syrup, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pears to a platter. Stir 2 tablespoons of the poaching liquid into each skillet to thin the syrup. Pour the sauce over the pears.
  5. Run a thin-bladed knife around the flans to loosen them and dip the bottom of each ramekin in hot water. Top each flan with a dessert plate and invert; holding the ramekin and plate together, give the dish a good shake to unmold the flan. Arrange 2 pear halves alongside each flan. Drizzle the flans and pears with the syrup and serve.
MAKE AHEAD The dessert can be prepared through Step 3 up to 3 days in advance; refrigerate the poached pears and flans separately.

Dark Gingerbread Pear Cake
Maggie Ruggiero

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses (not robust or blackstrap)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup grated peeled ginger
  • 1 Bosc pear
  • Accompaniment: whipped cream
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 9-inch cake pan, knocking out excess.
  2. Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt.
  3. Melt butter with water.
  4. Beat together brown sugar and molasses with an electric mixer until combined. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well. Beat in flour mixture at low speed until just combined. Add butter mixture and ginger, beating just until smooth. Pour into cake pan.
  5. Peel pear and cut into 3/4-inch pieces. Scatter over batter. Bake until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool slightly.

Pear and Walnut Tart

  • 2 cups flour, plus more
  • ½ cup plus 3 tbsp. sugar
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • 12 tbsp. unsalted butter (1 ½ sticks), cubed and chilled
  • 1 whole egg plus 1 egg white, lightly beaten together
  • 1 cup golden or sultana raisins
  • 1 cup brandy
  • 2 lbs. firm ripe Bosc pears, peeled, halved, cored, and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 8 amaretti cookies, crushed 
  1. In a bowl, whisk together flour, ½ cup sugar, and salt. Add 8 tbsp. butter; work butter into flour until it resembles coarse sand. Add egg mixture; stir to form a dough. Briefly knead dough on a floured surface. Press dough into a disk; wrap in plastic wrap; chill for 2 hours. Working on a floured surface, roll dough into a 13" circle about 3/16" thick. Transfer dough to an 11" removable-bottom tart pan set on a baking sheet; press dough into pan. Trim edges of dough; prick bottom with a fork. Cover tart shell with plastic wrap; chill in freezer for 20 minutes.
  2. Heat oven to 400°. Place a 13" circle of parchment paper inside tart shell; fill with dried beans. Bake until edges brown, about 20 minutes. Remove paper and beans; continue baking until browned all over, 18–20 minutes. Let cool.
  3. Meanwhile, put raisins into a bowl; cover with brandy; let sit for 20 minutes. In a bowl, combine remaining sugar, pears, and lemon juice; transfer mixture to cooled tart shell. Drain raisins; scatter over pears. Sprinkle walnuts and cookies over pears. Dot top with remaining butter; cover rim of tart with strips of foil. Bake until tart is golden and bubbly, 45–50 minutes. Let cool; serve.

Happy baking!

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