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Friday, March 19, 2010

Caramelized Pears and Cream

I just love fruit. I really get excited about summer fruit... watermelon. Oh yeah. Peaches! (Tree ripened, of course.) Heck yeah. There are so many really good summer fruits out there. But, winter ain't no slouch, you know. Who can forget that winter is orange season? From December through April, I eat between four and eight pounds of juicy oranges a week. I also adore pears. I split my time between d'Anjou and Bosc. I love them both for different reasons. I love d'Anjou for their sweet juiciness. With a properly ripened bosc, I delight in their satisfying crisp, clean pear flavor.

Unfortunately, I sometimes get a bit carried away at the grocery store and purchase more pears at a time than I could ever hope to consume. When they start going "that way," I start thinking about cooked preparations. I really enjoy Cooking Light's Red Wine Pear Crisp with Spiced Struesel. But sometimes, I just want a quick and simple dessert.

Enter the caramelized pear. Three ingredients are all you'll find in the caramel part. Two ingredients are all you'll find in the cream part. Then a light sprinkling of cinnamon tops it off. It couldn't be easier! What I really love about this dessert is how the unsweetened cream provides a wonderful contrast for the too-sweet-by-themselves pears. The cream is only partially whipped and provides the pears with more of a sauce than a fluffy topping... an ethereal, creamy sauce.

I typically use one pear per person, but it's satisfying enough that a pear per two after a heavy meal would probably be sufficient. Be sure to use Bosc pears since they can hold up to being cooked.

Caramelized Pears and Cream
Yield: 1-2 servings, multiply as needed

1 ripe but firm Bosc pear
2 TBS table sugar
1 TBS heavy cream

2 TBS heavy cream
1/8 tsp vanilla

dash cinnamon

Peel and slice the pear into approximately 6-8 wedges. Sprinkle the sugar in the bottom of a skillet over medium heat. Place the pears in and then walk away. If you mess with the pears and try to move them around, you may disturb the sugar's crystallization process, leading to horrible rock hard pieces of sugar in your caramel. Trust me, it isn't pretty. So, resist the urge to fiddle and stir.

Keep an eye on the pears to prevent over caramelization (leading to a bitter taste). While the pears and sugar cook, mix the cream and vanilla and beat with a whisk until it is thickened and foamy, but does not hold its shape.

Allow the pears to cook in the sugar until the sugar has all melted and started to turn a golden hue. Again, be careful not to let the sugar get too dark. When the sugar is golden, add the tablespoon of cream and start to stir to incorporate. There may be a good deal of hissing and the caramel may seem to seize a bit, but keep it over the heat until it loosens back up, if necessary.

Remove from the heat and spoon pears into a bowl. Pour the cream over top and sprinkle with cinnamon.

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