Carmelized PearsPosted: April 18, 2010
As I am writing this, Spring in Chicago has officially sprung. The newly unfurled leaves of the oak trees ruffle and flutter. The park behind my house is filled with shouts and bellows of laughter as children play baseball and soccer. Little dogs run around off their leashes and dash after ground squirrels. Tulips bloom along the sidewalks, and not a single cloud hangs in the sky.
What a perfect day to lounge in bed with the window wide open, sip a cup of coffee and nibble at chocolate brownies covered in ganache. Decadence. Utter decadence.
But I’m not going to write about the brownies. Partly because I made them last night from a box (yikes), and also because I am just not a great baker. In fact, me and baking have a long history of not really getting along. In high school, I perfected a recipe for chocolate chip pecan cookies, and I have always shown great skill with pancakes, but when my baking projects go wrong, they go so, so wrong. I always seem to wind up with a sunken hole in the middle of my cakes, or biscuits that crack teeth in half.
I am also the kind of home cook who prefers to not use recipes. I am in possession of a creative disposition and truly disdain measuring. Rulers are the bain of my existence, I detest templates of any sort and I was never good with comma usage in creative writing (as I am sure you have already noticed). I am made to feel suffocated by rules.
In the delicate chemistry of baking, one slip in your measurements and you’re done for. Accidentally added too much baking powder? Forget about it.
Which provides the explanation for why I have wound up with clumps of chewy, tasteless dough whenever I have attempted to bake without a recipe. The only exception to this would have to be cobblers. Throw some fruit and sugar in a dish and cover it with a crumbly mix of sugar, butter, oats and flour and you’re good to go. Not only do stewed fruits taste outstanding, but they are so elegant in their simplicity.
So when I found four, somewhat bruised pears that had lingered in the back of the vegetable crisper I thought of only one thing to do with them, carmelize those suckers and serve then with vanilla bean ice cream.
The great thing about this recipe is that there is no recipe.
Take your pears and peel them. Slice them in half and scoop out the core, retain the stem for its aesthetic appeal. Cover the bottom of a pie dish (or any other small baking dish) with a layer of brown sugar (approx. 1/4 cup). Now pour in enough brandy to make a thick paste (1-2Tbsp). You can substitute the brandy with orange or apple juice. Put your pears in the dish and coat with the mixture. Sprinkle with cinnamon and ginger and top with a few pats of butter. Cover. Put in a pre-heated oven at 450. Bake for 15-20mins until liquid condenses to a thick syrup.
Let cool until warm and serve with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.
No one can mess this up. Doesn’t it look amazing?