In my mind there are two types of pears. The first are the juicy not-completely-ripen green pears I used to eat as a child in the backyard of my grandparents’ house in the summer heat. The second are the ripe pears, which are yellow and have a very ‘grainy’ flesh. They all have an amazing sweet aroma that fills the air in a discrete way, but the second type never really held my attention. I would buy pears and have them sitting in the fruit bowl for too long until they are utterly undesirable for me. So I stopped buying pears.
But so it happened that S. brought home at least a kilo of this unfortunate fruit. When she was done munching on them day after day, the pears were once again forgotten. All 6 of them. They just sat there, by the sink, while apples, bananas, and kiwis came and went. And before they had turned bad I had to make a choice - either leave them and throw them away and have the thought haunt me for years, or save them and change their fate.
I chose the latter and faced the daunting task of finding a suitable recipe. To make things even more difficult, pears are not the most versatile of fruits. They go well in muffins, fruit bread, and baby food. Or they could become a boring classic if I decided to poach them. None of these seemed to suit something I was looking for. And I was looking to experiment.
I have been meaning to make tiramisu for a while, but I didn’t feel like going on a recon for ladyfingers. And until the last possible moment I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do the tiramisu egg custard but in the end settled for a ‘cooked’ egg version. I was afraid any of the ingredients I was to use would kill the subtle pear flavour. Coffee in particular (especially since I have already mentioned I am not the greatest fan of coffee). My doubts and fears did not disperse until I tried the finished and polished dessert. And it was good. Very good. Of course, I had used a bit too much coffee ( maybe I will leave it out entirely next time) and the adding of melted chocolate on my biscuit base is still a questionable bonus. Since it hardened up, the eating of a piece happens on two stages. First is the creamy part which melts in the mouth with an intriguing combination of sweet velvety custard, grainy subtle pears, and light bitter coffee after taste. Then come the hard pungent dark chocolate and biscuits, which bring an interesting change in texture but eliminate the soft mellow flavour of the pears and cream. Maybe next time I will leave the chocolate and coffee out but for now I have a rich luxurious dessert, which although imperfect, is nothing short from delectable.
What you’ll need for an 8’’ form
For the base:
150 grams chocolate digestives
40 grams cold butter
100 grams dark chocolate (it was overpowering so consider reducing it)
40 grams butter
For the cream:
200 grams mascarpone (should be at room temperature)
300 ml whipping cream (Some of it is used for the coffee layer)
3 egg yolks
100 grams light brown sugar
For the pear layer:
400 grams peeled and seeded pears
3.5 leaves gelatin
30 grams light brown sugar
30ml Pitu (or another alcohol of choice/no alcohol at all)
For the coffee layer:
50 grams mascarpone
80 grams whipped cream
1 tsp instant coffee
Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting.
What you need to do:
1.Prepare the base by crushing the biscuits together with the cold butter to a substance resembling wet sand. Press and smooth out the mixture on the base of a spring form.
Optional: Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan with couple of centimetres of water. Add the butter and when everything has homogenised, pour and spread over the biscuit base. Leave aside to settle.
2.Place the gelatin leaves into cold water. Clean and chop the pears into pieces. Put them in a saucepan together with the sugar, cinnamon and Pitu, and let them steam on a low heat until they have softened throughout. Blend them to a smooth pure and when they have cooled a little, add the gelatin that had been swelling up in the cold water and stir until it is absorb. Do not put the mixture in the fridge because it will firm up and you won’t be able to create a good layer.
3.Place the egg yolks in a bowl over a saucepan with simmering water. The water should not touch the bottom of the bowl as it will cook the eggs fast and you’ll end up with scrambled eggs. Add 50 grams of sugar and whisk them together for at least 10 minutes until you have thick, pale, creamy custard. Let the beaten yolks rest and cool slowly.
4.Whip the cream with 50 grams sugar. Leave about 80 grams of it aside for the coffee layer. Slowly begin adding of the egg custard to the cream and fold the two together until incorporated.
5.Add the mascarpone to the mixture. It will take a bit of time before fully mixed. I cheated and in the end, I used my electric mixer to get my cream to a smooth consistency. Pour over the cooled biscuit base and put in the fridge for 1 hour.
6.Stir the rest of the mascarpone with the remaining cream and 1 tsp of instant coffee. The coffee granules will not dissolve immediately but that is not a problem. Cover the container with a cling film and leave in the fridge. When you come back to it later, it will easily blend to a homogenous light brown cream.
7.After the custard has chilled, it should have firmed up enough to hold the room temperature pear pure. Spread it over and place the form back in the fridge.
8.After another hour or two, add the coffee cream (after you have stirred it), smooth out the surface and place the cake in the fridge for an overnight stay.
9.After you take the cake out of the tin, finish it with dusting of unsweetened cocoa and/or dark chocolate.
It is a bitter:sweet decadent pleasure and the ultimate (tea time) dessert.