Apr 19, 2012

Over-the-top with Pears

Bosc Pears
Click on photo to enlarge
The pear has been enjoyed around the world for a long time. As a matter of fact, pears are one of the world's oldest cultivated and beloved fruits. There are over 3000 known varieties of pears including Anjou, Bartlett, Comice and Bosc. 

In general, standard fruit trees such as you would find in the mainland U.S. will grow fine in Hawaii. However, they will not produce fruit. Such fruit trees, as apples, pears, peaches, etc. require a dormant period, like winter, to reset the production cycle. If this does not happen there will be no fruit produced. Fortunately for us, pears are picked hard, then shipped to Hawaii from Oregon and Washington, where they have been cultivated since the 1800's. I say fortunately because the pear actually improves in texture and flavor after being picked. 

If you want to buy a pear and eat it right away, press the neck of the pear. If it yields to pressure, then it's ripe, sweet and juicy. Otherwise, store pears at room temperature until they ripen, then put them in the refrigerator. My favorite pear for cooking is the Bosc pear, but the most beautiful pear in my opinion is the Red Anjou. The Bosc pear has an overall brownish russet skin color with a classic pear shape and a heady pear aroma. The reason chefs like cooking with this pear is that it keeps its shape and does not get soggy, plus it has a honey-sweet flavor. Bosc pears are available from Fall through late Spring here in Hawaii.

Spiced Bosc Pears
This is a simple poached pear dessert recipe that is easy to make, elegant and delicious.

4 firm-ripe Bosc pears, peeled, halved and cored, leaving the stems on
1 lemon, squeezed
2 cups water
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger powder
mint leaves to garnish

Combine orange juice, water, sugar and honey in a large sauce pan. Stir well to mix and bring to a simmer. Add vanilla, nutmeg, ginger powder and lemon juice. Add the pears and simmer for 30 minutes, turning pears to make sure all surfaces have been cooked. Remove from pan and keep warm. Let the remaining liquid boil until syrup thickens. With a small, sharp knife, cut pears into 1/4 inch slices, trying not to cut through the neck of the pair halves, then carefully fan out the bottom part of the pear and arrange halves, cut side down, in a serving dish. Pour syrup over pears, garnish the top of the pear halves with a mint leave and serve. Makes 4 servings.

Pear Sorbet with Red Wine
The flavor of the pears and wine mixed with a beautiful red color makes this an elegant frozen dessert.

2 1/2 pounds ripe Bosc pears
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups good Burgundy red wine
1 1/2 cups water
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Peel, core and quarter the pears. Place them in a medium saucepan with the sugar, red wine, water, cinnamon stick and vanilla extract. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the pears are soft and translucent. This will take 15 to 20 minutes if the pears are ripe and soft to begin with, or about 30 minutes if they’re somewhat hard. Add the pepper. Using tongs, remove the pears to a bowl. Remove the cinnamon stick from the poaching liquid, and discard. Turn up the heat, and reduce until the mixture has the consistency of a thin syrup. Place the pears, in batches, in a blender, or place all of them in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Purée until smooth. Slowly add the poaching liquid and the lemon juice, and blend together. Transfer to a bowl, and chill. Meanwhile, place a 1-quart container in the freezer. Freeze in an ice cream maker following the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to the chilled container, and freeze for at least two hours before serving. If frozen solid, allow to soften in the refrigerator for 15 to 30 minutes. Makes one quart, serving six.

Spiced Sherry Pear Cake
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 large eggs
2 cups flour
pinch salt
2 teaspoons soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
4 cups firm-ripe Bosc pears, peeled, cored and diced into 1/4-inch cubes
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup sherry
Frosting if desired, but not necessary

Beat sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift together dry ingredients and mix into the creamed butter. Fold in pears, nuts, vanilla and sherry. Spoon into a buttered and floured 9”x13” baking dish. Bake in a 350˚F oven for 35 to 45 minutes, until a pick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool and frost, if desired, or leave plain.
Beat 1 cup softened butter until creamy. Beat in 2 cups powdered sugar and 1/4 cup sherry until mixture is light and fluffy. Makes 12 servings.

Hawaiian Pear Bread
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
3/4 cup canola oil
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 cups firm-ripe Bosc pears, peeled, cored and diced into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 cup coconut
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans or macadamia nuts

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Sift flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together. In a separate bowl, combine sugars, oil, eggs, vanilla, lemon juice and pears. Mix in dry ingredients. Fold in coconut, raisins and nuts. Pour into 2 lightly greased loaf pans or one greased bundt pan. Bake for 55 minutes until done. Makes 2 loaves or 12-15 servings.

Hawaiian Sweetbread Pudding with Pears
1 pound loaf Hawaiian sweetbread, torn into pieces
1/2 cup raisins, split into 1/4 cup
1/2 cup shredded coconut, split into 1/4 cup
2 firm-ripe Bosc pears, peeled, cored and diced into 1/4-inch cubes
4 teaspoons cinnamon, split into 2 teaspoons
3 cups milk
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 sticks butter

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Place 1/2 of sweet bread pieces in a 9”x13” roasting pan. Sprinkle 1/4 cup raisins, 1/4 cup coconut, 1/2 cup pears and 2 teaspoons cinnamon onto bread pieces. Continue layering with the remaining sweetbread, raisins, coconut, pears and cinnamon. In a large mixing bowl, combine the milk, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Mix well. Pour evenly over the sweetbread. Dot with butter. Place in oven for 1 hour. Makes 12-15 servings.

Pear Gingerbread Muffins
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
pinch of mace
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup light molasses
1 cup cold water
One, firm-ripe Bosc pear, peeled, cored and diced into 1/4-inch cubes

Preheat oven to 375˚F. Line, or lightly butter 12 standard muffin cups. Whisk flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, mace and salt in medium bowl to blend. In a second larger bowl, mix together the melted butter, sugar, molasses, and eggs. Stir in the cold water. Add half of the dry ingredients and stir until blended. Stir in the remaining dry ingredients. Fold in the diced pears. Bake gingerbread until a tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 22-25 minutes (check after 20 minutes). Set on a rack to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the muffins from the muffin tin and allow to cool completely on the rack. Makes 12 muffins.

Pear-Pancetta Pupu with Goat Cheese
12 thin slices pancetta (about 1/3 lb.)
3 firm-ripe Bosc or Bartlett pears
1/2 (4-oz.) package goat cheese, crumbled
freshly cracked pepper
Garnish: 12 fresh thyme sprigs

Arrange pancetta slices in a single layer on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 450°F for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden. Cool 10 minutes or until crisp. Meanwhile, core pears with an apple corer. Cut pear crosswise into 12 thin 1/8-inch thick rings. Arrange on a serving platter. Top each slice of pear with a pancetta slice and crumbled goat cheese; sprinkle with fresh cracked pepper. Drizzle with honey just before serving. Garnish each with a small fresh thyme sprig. Makes 12 pupu servings.

Pickled Red Onions and Pears
This side dish is great served with barbequed meats, and in potato salad, or just as a tangy snack.

2 large red onions, peeled, and thinly sliced into rings
1 firm-ripe Bosc pear, peeled, cored and sliced
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup water
3 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
1 bay leaf
5 allspice berries
5 whole cloves
a small, dried chile pepper
1 thinly sliced clove of garlic

Put cut onions and pears into two pint sized sterilized canning jars. In a large, non-reactive saucepan, heat the vinegar, sugar, salt, seasonings, chile and garlic until boiling. Add the onion and pear slices and lower heat, then simmer gently for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Transfer the onions and the liquid into jars then refrigerate until ready to use. Note: The red onions will turn everything a nice pink color. Best used within a week, but will keep refrigerated for several months. Makes about 2 pints.

Pear Galette
Click on photo to enlarge
Pear Galette
6 firm-ripe Bosc pears, peeled, sliced in half and cored, then thinly sliced about 1/4"
2 teaspoon all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-14 ounce package of refrigerated Pillsbury pie crust
1 large egg white, lightly beaten

Heat oven to 425˚F. You’ll need two 9 inch pie pans sprayed with cooking spray, or you can make this on a large foil lined cookie sheet, or a silicone mat as shown in photo. Unroll pie crust onto pie pans or a sheet pan or silicone mat. Carefully lay the pear slices in an overlapping circle on top of crust so the thin neck end is in the middle of the crust, leaving a 1-inch boarder around the edge, being careful not to break the delicate pears. Sprinkle pears with flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Spoon any remaining pear juice over the slices. Fold edges of crust over filling, pleating and pressing dough together to hold shape. Brush crust edges with egg white; sprinkle with more sugar. Bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375˚F. Bake 20 minutes more, or until crust is browned and fruit is juicy and tender. Cool 10 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream or sweetened whipped cream. Note: Sometimes these pears take a week or more to ripen properly. I use a potato peeler to peel the pears, and a teaspoon measuring spoon to scoop out the seeds. Slice pears lengthwise, not across. Makes 2 Galettes, enough for 8 servings.

Ginger & Spice-Pear Phyllo Cups
Simple little phyllo butter cups, filled with pears, ginger and spice, perfect for the end of a holiday meal. 

Ingredients for the phyllo cups:
6 (13-by-17-inch) phyllo sheets
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick), melted

Ingredients for the pears:
1 pound Bartlett or Anjou pears (about 2 medium)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons finely chopped candied or crystallized ginger
1/8 teaspoon fine salt
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

Ingredients for the cream:
3/4 cup very cold heavy cream
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream

Procedure for the phyllo cups:
Heat the oven to 425°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Arrange a sheet of phyllo on a large cutting board (be sure to cover the remaining phyllo sheets with a slightly damp paper towel or plastic wrap) and brush the top with melted butter. Arrange another sheet on top of the first sheet and repeat, alternating butter and phyllo, until there are 6 layers. Brush the top layer with butter.

Using a sharp knife, cut the phyllo into 12 approximately 4-by-4-inch squares. Fit 1 square snugly into each well of a 12-well muffin pan, gently pressing the phyllo into the bottom and up the sides of each well. Bake until the dough is lightly browned and crispy, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool on a wire rack. When the cups are cool, remove them from the pan and set aside. The cups can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Procedure for the pears:
Peel, halve, and core the pears. Cut into medium dice (you should have about 2 cups) and set aside.
Melt the butter in a medium frying pan over medium heat until foaming. Sprinkle the brown sugar over top and cook until the mixture is bubbling and the sugar has dissolved, about 3 minutes. Add the reserved pears, ginger, and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is caramelized and the pears have just begun to release their juices and are softened, about 3 to 5 minutes. (The sugar may seize—or become lumpy—at first, but it will redistribute itself.)
Stir in the walnuts and set aside.

Procedure for the cream:
Place the cream, brown sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl and whisk vigorously until stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes. Add the sour cream and whisk until just incorporated. To serve, divide the gingered pears and their juices among the phyllo cups and top with the whipped cream. Serve immediately. Makes 12 servings.

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