Prep Time:1 hour (if making pastry; 20 minutes if not) |
Cook Time:35 to 40 minutes
It may have over 20 years since I went to cooking school, but I’ve never forgotten my favorite recipe from there: pears draped in sweet pastry with little cutout leaves at the stem and the world’s best caramel sauce poured around them. It takes a little time to prepare the pastry and sauce from scratch, but you will be so proud if you do. If you must cheat, use really good purchased pie dough (not puff pastry) and top-quality caramel sauce. Then this dessert practically pulls itself together.
2 batches tante marie’s sweet pastry
4 pears, preferably Comice (see note)
1 cup heavy cream, plus 2 tablespoons
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter
Prepare both batches of pastry and roll each one into a rectangle about 10×12-inches. Preheat an oven to 375°F.
Peel the pears, then insert a paring knife into the bottoms and cut around the blossom end to pull out the cores; leave the stems intact. Cut each pastry rectangle in half; trim a 1-inch wide strip off the long side of one of the pieces and reserve it to make leaves. Cut a small hole in the center of each piece of pastry. Drape each piece over a pear, putting the stem through the hole. Gather the dough gently in folds around the pear and tuck the dough into the cored cavity (bottoms don’t have to be neat); trim any excess dough. Cut leaf shapes from the dough strip and etch with the blunt side of a knife to look like veins. In a small bowl, beat the egg with the 2 tablespoons cream. Brush this glaze over the pastry-wrapped pears; attach the leaf cutouts near the stems, then brush them with glaze. Set pears on a parchment-lined baking sheet, slightly apart. Bake until golden brown, about 35 minutes.
Meanwhile, make caramel sauce: Warm the 1 cup cream in a small saucepan on a back burner over low heat. Put sugar in a heavy, deep saucepan with 1/4 cup water on front burner (don’t use a dark pan though; it’s hard to see the sugar changing color). Over medium heat, gently swirl pan of sugar and water until liquid becomes clear, then increase heat to high and boil without swirling or stirring until sugar turns caramel-brown and smells toasty. Turn off heat and pour in the warm cream; mixture will bubble like mad. Once bubbling subsides, swirl in butter until melted. (If mixture hardens, don’t panic. Just set pan over low heat and stir with a wooden spoon until smooth.) Set sauce aside in pan until ready to use.
To serve, spoon a few tablespoons of caramel sauce on a dessert plate and top with a pastry-wrapped pear. Pass additional sauce alongside.
note: You can use any pear except Boscs (too darn hard), but choose ones that are not huge. A 6-ounce pear is just right.