Category: pears

Dark chocolate & pear preserves.

Well, like I’ve told you before, I don’t like pears. As a matter of fact I downright DISLIKE them. I know, I know. I wanted to like them. But I don’t (just like how I desperately wanted to like oatmeal & soft-boiled eggs too…).

However this time of year I’m starting to think about what preserves, jellies & jams I’ll be gifting people for Christmas, and I happen to know a decent amount of folks who quite enjoy these oddly-shaped little fruits.

Bosc & Bartlett's ready to go into dark chocolate pear preserves.For some reason, this striped towel just reminds me of pears- is that weird?

 

When I happened upon gorgeous pears at my local market for .79¢ a pound, I knew I had to get them & use them up ASAP. For that price I could’ve gotten a gazillion- but again, I don’t like them. They were selling Bartlett, Bosc & Seckel all for the same low price. I got about 3 lbs. of a Bosc/Bartlett mix and it cost me less then $3.00. Amazing. Who says fruit has to be expensive?

Anyway… once I got them home I started looking in earnest for ways to use them in either baked goods or in relatively small-batch preserves/jams. My mother & I ended up making some pear fritters with 2 of them, however I knew the rest would have to be used sooner rather than later. I had made pear sauce with cardamom last year, and I wanted something a bit different than your average jam. I found this recipe over at Food In Jars & I knew it was the one. It’s adapted from an English book, Notes From the Jam Cupboard by Mary Tregellas. It’s a dark chocolate pear jam.

Or preserves, in my case.

Dark chocolate pear preserves.

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Small-batch inspiration.

“There are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Thanksgiving is over. The turkeys have all been gobbled up- pun intended. Most folks are going to be eating turkey sandwiches with cranberry sauce for another few days, at least. And Christmas is rapidly coming, as evidenced by all the colored & white twinkling lights that are popping up everywhere. I guess- for most people- that means this month, same as last month, is filled with a plethora of recipes & cooking. Or at least, plans to do so.

I should probably say that this post is about a recipe, and cooking, but also about a kind of combination of baker’s block and writer’s block. And “cook’s block,” or whatever. Because I genuinely felt, a while back, as if my well of never-ending ideas had dried up. Just a few weeks ago I’d been feeling majorly uninspired. Not just kitchen-wise, although that was a major part of it. In life, too. Completely uninspired & boring. And it wasn’t fun, especially when you’re a blogger whose blog is dependent on your ideas. Usually, I’m fairly prolific… even when I make something & it’s a failure, I still have tons of shit to say about it. At the very least I usually have other ideas bouncing around in my head. I know exactly what to make for dinner, what to bake, what to say about it all.

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But nope. Not a few weeks ago.

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Other than writing about my writing/baking/cooking block, I had nothing else to say. And I guess in five years of blogging it’s bound to happen at least once, so I can’t complain. But all I could think of to make were boring things that I’ve already done. Or not so boring things that I’ve already done. Either way, I’ve already done them. And you don’t come here to read the same damn thing over & over again. I was stuck in such a rut, you have no idea. Even when it was dinner time. I’d open my cabinets, stare at the contents, then let them slam shut without one spark of inspiration. Thankfully, I had some things to post that I had made already or else the blog would’ve been blank.

Have I done everything? No. Have I created every single baked good or cupcake or meal there is to make? Not at all. My inspiration meter was just on zero. I just couldn’t come up with anything to do. Or rather, that I felt like doing. It was a drag. A major freakin’ drag. I had absolutely no kitchen-mojo. But then I had a breakthrough:

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Pear-sauce.

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Pears and I don’t really get along. I’m not a fan of pears at all, really. Apples, yes. Pears, no.

But sometimes we’re pushed into making things by necessity… like the bowl of pears sitting on the table that are getting too soft (ahem- remember these?), and the coincidental small-batch brown sugar & cardamom pear jam blog post you find at a favorite blog. Taking some cues from Marisa, I decided on making an applesauce-type thing, but with pears. And cardamom, ’cause it sounded good. I don’t like pears, mind you, but sauces/jams/jellies make great hostess or holiday gifts. And at the time, this being a few weeks ago, Thanksgiving was coming up (and then the Christmas holiday season), and I figured I’d be going to a few people’s houses for dinners or perhaps hosting my own. Therefore I could use a few spare jars of things I don’t use for that very reason. Giving your hostess a jar of something homemade is always a nice touch. Besides, it’s nice to offer people a variety of homemade yummies with dinner/dessert this time of year. And I had, actually, been toying with the idea of making some pear-sauce, but in my mind I had imagined a pear/apple combination, maybe with cinnamon.

So granted, my uninspired period didn’t last very long. But the end result of it made the brief time of “blah” much more worth it! Not only was it something I personally had never made before, but it would use up those bruised & soft pears!

After seeing the post at Food in Jars, I used all the pears I had that were getting soft, of which there were about four or five. I had mostly Bartlett, but there were one or two teeny Seckel pears in there (if you’re making this now, you can use either Seckel or Anjou, both should be available). I cored them, chopped them up (without peeling them), and added ‘em to a saucepan with a cup of sugar and a tablespoon of lemon juice (I ended up with a little over 2 3/4 cups of chopped pears). I then let it cook. I occasionally used a fork to mash the larger chopped up bits. I let it cook until it “came together”, and then I raised the heat up. I let it go again until it splattered and sputtered and got thick, stirring it occasionally. Then I added a teaspoon of cardamom and lowered the heat a bit to let the cardamom cook into it. At this point, it seemed to have the consistency of a slightly chunky applesauce, but I thought it might turn out to be slightly thicker than that when cooled (And it was, but not by much).

I added it to the hot, sterilized jars (I ended up with 16 ounces of it total; one half-pint jar and two 4-oz. jars) and sealed them. Processed them for 10 minutes in a water bath canner and that was that.

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Easiest thing ever.

And of course, as she said, it makes a great oatmeal addition. Just swirl it in there. Or, use it however you’d use applesauce. And if you don’t want to “can” it, I’m fairly sure it’d be fine to just pop it in a clean jar and refrigerate it for use right away. Or… can it, make the jars look all spiffy, and use it as part of your holiday gifts. Before anyone asks: I spray painted those bands black myself- not safe to use for the water bath, but I put them on in place of regular ones once the jars are cooled. Yet another “inspired” moment, this time thanks to Well Preserved.

All it took to get me back in the game was three little jars of pear-sauce with black-painted rings? Not bad. Not bad at all.

The ‘I-don’t-like-pears’ honeyed pear tarts.

Nor’easter Athena, or Winter Storm Athena, hit New York, New Jersey & Connecticut this past week. She was supposed to be rain/slushy mix with high winds for the city & surrounding areas with light snow further inland leading to deeper snow at the far interior; she ended up being around 6 inches of snow for the city. Seriously. First a hurricane… or should I say, “superstorm;” the likes of which we’ve never seen before. And then a goddamn snowstorm. I don’t know. I give up.

Now you tell me there’s nothing crazy going on with climate change.

Ugh. I hate snow. This photo was taken at around 4:45 p.m. on Wednesday, before an additional 4+ inches was loaded on. The worst part, though, is that there are families- incuding people I know- living without power & heat. Some of them even in damaged or compromised homes or apartments, tarps on the roof or broken doors & windows. And it snowed. On top of everything else! Did I mention I hate snow?

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Speaking of things I hate, pears & I don’t mix. I might have told you before… I just don’t like pears. I’ve tried. I really tried to like them. They’re so cute!

And they look so similar to apples, and have such a similar skin & flesh texture, that I try really hard to enjoy them. But ultimately I don’t, and I just have to accept that. I’ll never be a fan of ginger pear white tea, I’ll never like pear tarts and I’ll never, ever like eating one straight. However, I’m a sucker for fresh produce… pears and apples look so pretty together!

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But you have to know your audience. So when you’re making a dinner for people who do like pears, and you had some pears sitting around that you had bought for a great price, despite not liking them… then you come up with a dessert featuring those pears. Preferably a quick & simple dessert that doesn’t require a lot of work. Something rustic-looking, something rough around the edges, and something that I can throw together in five minutes.

So this is what I came up with. Sugared & honeyed pear tarts.

I thought of those quick & easy stone fruit galettes I made over the summer, and decided if it worked for peaches & plums, it’d work for pears too. And of course, despite it being extremely easy, and lacking an in-depth explanation… I thought I’d share it with you.

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It’s simple, really. Practically makes itself. The longest part is peeling the pears.

Get some frozen puff pastry* and take it out to thaw. Get your pears, wash ‘em and peel ‘em. Then cut them in half, and cut out the bottom core and scrape out the inside seed/core part of each. A melon baller can make this easy, but a small teaspoon works too. Remember- each pear makes 2 tarts. It’s cool to leave the stems on like I did, but you can also remove them if you want. Set the pears aside. Prepare a baking sheet by covering it with a sheet of parchment paper. Then take your thawed puff pastry and cut it into rectangles, sizing them so that the pear halves fit just right. Brush each piece with a little honey, then place your pears on top. Brush the pears with honey, and bake at 375° degrees F until the pastry is “puffed” around the pears and golden brown, about 20-30 minutes.

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Remove the tarts from the oven, then let them cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet. Remove from the sheet and plate them. Drizzle with honey, sift some powdered sugar on top, and serve with whipped cream or ice cream while still warm.

Bam. Easy fall dessert.

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Alternately, you can hollow the insides of the pears out even more and put some goat cheese or mascarpone cheese in the middle before placing them on the pastry, to make a kind of filling. Maybe add some sliced almonds, too. You can also drizzle it with melted chocolate or homemade caramel instead of honey. I like the sugar sprinkled over the top… it’s like snow.

You can use pretty much any fruit, and this is a dessert that can be made any time of year. Like I said, I did it before with sliced plums & peaches; you can also use apples. Of course it’s pear season now, but I think you still might be able to get some plums, and some apples, so use what you like. You can also cut the pastry into a pear shape, and decorate it with a puff pastry leaf at the top, to make it fancier. Or slice the pear from the bottom almost all the way to the top, cutting it into six or seven slices leaving the stem part intact, and then fan it out slightly over the puff pastry. And you can basically use any kind of pear you want, because you’re not cutting them up too much, they won’t turn to mush. If you decide to use apples, then you have to use a good baking apple (Gala, Golden Delicious, Rome, etc). But with pears, it shouldn’t matter much, so use whatever ones you like that are in season: Anjou (Red or Green), Bartletts (Red or Green; although I think they’re gone by now), Bosc, Concorde, or Forelle. I can’t really remember what mine were.

I told you, I don’t like pears.

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*You can most definitely use homemade puff pastry as well. I’m just not one for attacking people or coming down on them for not using local fruit & organic unbleached whole wheat pastry flour or for using frozen short-cuts now & then. Life is hard enough, don’t make it more complicated than it is. Pastry should be fun & delicious- not snobby enough to make you feel like you want to cry. Make it however you like! No judgment here.

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