Easy peasy pudding and pear

8 May

There are some food combinations which, at first glance, seem quite odd.  Cheese and apple, olive oil with vanilla ice cream, mango and sticky rice and have you ever tried strawberry jam on a fried egg?

Pear and Chocolate sauce, may not be quite as odd as some of the aforementioned pairings, but if you think about it, does seem a little unusual. However, it is a classic, easy dessert and the combination is simply superb. Don’t be fooled. It may be really simple to make, but it is a great choice to finish any meal – from the most simple, to the most elaborate.

Although truly French, unlike so many French recipes, which tend be complicated,  preparing this dish requires only the most basic cooking skills, can be whipped up in less than an hour  and pairs (pardon the corny pun) beautifully with just about any main course, from Spicy Asian, to rich and elaborate Cordon Bleu… Its simple, yet surprisingly sophisticated.

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MAIN COMPONENTS 

  • stewed pears
  • a chocolate sauce
  •  a good quality vanilla ice cream

The recipe is for 6, but hey – if there are only two of you – all the better , the cooked pears will last at least a week in the fridge, so plenty of time for seconds and thirds.

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PREPARING THE PEARS:

  • 6 medium firm pears peeled and quartered (they dont have to be ready to eat, they can still be a bit hard)
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1 1/2 cups of sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (for preventing discolouring, so its not essential)

Method

Peel the pairs and remove the core with the end of a vegetable peeler or melon scoop. Quarter each pair and brush with lemon juice to prevent discolouring

Combine the water , sugar and vanilla essence, over high heat, stirring to allow the sugar to dissolve.

Bring to boil

Have the liquid boil for a further 2 minutes.

Gently add the pears, simmer over low heat for about 20 – 30 minutes or until a knife slides easily into a pear without too much pressure. Keep the pears covered with the liquid at all times to ensure even cooking.

Once the pears are done, remove to the kitchen counter to cool, and then place them, covered, into the fridge for around 2 hours until properly chilled.

Note : Cover the pot whilst the pears are simmering to prevent too much liquid from evaporating. Then when the pears are done,  check the consistency of the liquid, remove the pears, and reduce the liquid by boiling it down over medium high heat, until it has the desired consistency. Its personal – some people like a watery pear sauce others prefer it syrupy and thick. Whatever your preference, be careful that you don’t boil at too high temperature, as the syrup can caramelize, so turn down the heat when you observe any discoloring of the liquid.

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PREPARING THE SAUCE – you pick the method :

There are 2 methods to make the sauce, both delicious.  The first is making a chocolate sauce using butter cocoa and cream. The technique is very similar to making a traditional Roux or White Sauce. The second is the traditional French, which really is melting chocolate in a microwave or double boiler, let the sauce melt and add pear syrup and some cream.

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SAUCE 1 (preferred) Cocoa Powder / Roux

If you dont have chocolate you can try the following method using cocoa powder, cream and sugar instead.

I devised this sauce some years ago when I was visiting a friend and we suddendly craved ice cream with chocolate sauce. It is an excellent recipe, and if you have made a Roux or white sauce before, you will recognise the similarities in the method. Basically you make a white sauce using coco instead of flour, and cream instead of milk.

  • about 3 tablespoons of cocoa (you could use less, but the sauce will not be as chocolately)
  • about the same amount of unsalted/salted butter as cocoa.
  • Sugar the same amount as the amount of cocoa you have used
  • Cream – about a cup

The measurements are not precise, what is important is the ratio. 1:1:1 sugar butter cocoa powder and then cream until it has the desired consistency. If it is too thick – thin with the pear syrup,  a tablespoon at a time.

Method

Melt the butter over low heat.

Add the cocoa powder off-heat and blend into a paste

Cook briefly – perhaps 3o seconds, but be sure to keep the very heat low, cream burns easily and the heat is used to melt the cocoa and sugar and blend the sauce, rather than cook it.

Add the cream, start with 1 tablespoon, blending it into the paste.

add another two, blending with a spatula, then more until you have the desired consistency.

Do so with the rest of the cream until a thick chocolate sauce has emerged. The sauce is ready when it is smooth, thick and shiny and its just ready to go to the boil, with bits of steam starting to escape.

At this point you can add a tablespoon or two of the pear syrup and blend it into the chocolate sauce.

Too thin or too thick ?

If, you find the sauce too thick, thin out with a splash or two of the cooked pear-sauce.

If the sauce is too thin, melt in a seperate small bowl or cup, a teaspoon of butter, add a teaspoon of cocoa and a teaspoon of sugar. Blend until smooth , add a tablespoon of the thin chocolate sauce, whisk or stir until smooth, then pour this mix back into the pan with the rest chocolate sauce.

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SAUCE 2 : Traditional French

  • 250g slab chocolate (milk or dark or a combination)
  • 1/4 cup of whipping/heavy cream warmed to almost boiling
  • 2 tablespoons of the pear syrup
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
WARNING : This method can be a little nerve wracking, because chocolate, when melting, may seize and become unusable should the slightest bit of moisture contaminate it.  ( For this reason Laura Esquivel used this disastrous reaction to aptly title her novel about cooking and lost love,  Like water for chocolate .

Double boiler : Add the chocolate into a double boiler with water simmering gently at the bottom. Let the chocolate melt completely and do not stir. Once the chocolate is melted completely stir the butter and heated cream until  smooth, add the pear syrup and whisk/stir to blend. Say a little prayer that the whole lot does not seize up just as you add the cream.

OR (easier and less risky)

Microwave : Melt a 250g slab of chocolate in the microwave. Make sure you melt the chocolate, not boil it. Check to monitor the melting progress, and do not stir. In a 900W micro, melt for 30 seconds, take out, check and then put back in for another 30 seconds. Doing it this way will prevent the chocolate melting and cooking on the side while the middle bits are stil cold. Repeat until all has melted. Try not to stir as this may make the chocolate stodgy instead of creamy and smooth.

Once melted add the butter and cream, whisk or stir to blend. Now add the syrup from the pear juice.

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TO SERVE :

To serve, scoop out 3 or so of the pears into a dessert plate, add a little of the syrup. Scoop a dollop of vanilla ice cream next to it. Now cover the pears with about 2 tablespoons of the chocolate sauce. Use mint leaves for decoration.

NOTE :

Though the rule of thumb is to add about 2-4 tablespoons of syrup to the sauce, it really depends on the consistency you want the final sauce to take on.

Keep the sauce warm. This sauce tend to ticken considerably when it has cooled, so it is best to serve immediately. However, if you need to reheat, add a few teaspoons of milk, blend until smooth and pop into the micro for about a minute.

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