Poached Pear And Almond Fallen Souffle Cakes
All weekend long I kept hearing about the snow falling down, heavy and thick in some places, watery and clumpy in some others. Friends here were making hot cocoa and shoveling driveways. My parents back home in France were describing the park in our village as wearing a light dusting of snowflakes. Here, we started to wonder if we would spend Christmas day in shorts like we did last year. Probably not but neither Bill nor I have put on coats yet this year. Indeed, we finally had signs of Fall. In December.
I have long understood that the South beats to a different rythm. It’s in the air. Literally. It suits my personality just fine. Winter breeze at 5am and reddish-brown leaves still falling, blanketing the yard by 5pm. Winter citrus sharing shelf space with Fall pears and apples at the market. I just felt compelled to fill my basket with the juiciest mini d’Anjour pears I could find, go home and make these gluten free Poached Pear and Almond Fallen Souffle Cakes.
One thing I have inherited from my mother and grandmother (beside the all-in-or-nothing temperament) is their love for poaching fruits in the colder month and using them in all sorts of desserts. I don’t really care what the thermometer reads outside lately. I am a bit homesick. It’s the holidays. I’m poaching. As I told Bill "French Christmas carols and lots of poached fruits – deal with it!". His eyes lit up and he replied "let me pull out some pillows and we can cozy up and you can tell me all about all the Christmases of your childhood." Love that man.
Fo us, one of the many joys of being in a relationship is to share just about everything. Even a bad cold. I don’t mind having a cold. I do mind when it hovers between cold and flu with fever, aches and chills but without knocking you down completely. This thing we have been sharing back and forth has been lowering all our levels by 40%-50% or so. It angers the bejesus out of me. Especially a few days before Christmas when there is still a ton to get done and lots of friends to see. But as we sat down with a cup of ginger tea and a warm pear and almond cake, we felt instantaneously better, warmer and happier.
I did convert the recipe to be gluten free to work with my diagnosis (yes, I know, research is still out on that one but I see the rewards of going gluten free and almost sodium free and that’s good enough for me) and I snuck in a whole poached pear instead of a half like my grandmother used to do. However, I know it wasn’t the reason why they rose as high and fell as quick as souffles.
We then changed their names too. The original was more of a scribble on a piece of paper from Mamie reading "Gateaux Amandes et Poires Pochees. Faites attention, ils degringolent" which could be translated as "Almond and Poached Pear Cakes. Watch out, they tumble down". And she was absolutely right. Hence B. felt compelled to rename them – he’s a stickler that way, ahah!
Whichever name you choose, all I know is that they are the perfect cross between a souffle, a cake and a custard. That for a brief moment they stopped my coughing and sneezing and that "Douce Nuit Sainte Nuit" never sounded more beautiful.
Poached Pear And Almond Fallen Souffle Cakes:
Note: you can core the pears from the bottom to about 1 inch from the top with an apple corer but these are so tiny that I just removed the stem button at the bottom. Everything else in the core baked to very soft texture and the seeds were easy to remove while eating (kind of like tails on baked shrimp).
For the poached pears:
6 mini d’Anjou pears, peeled (or other small pears like Forelles or Seckel)
1/2 cup (100gr) sugar
2-3 cardamom pods
1 stick cinnamon
5-6 allspice berries
1-2 star anise
4 cups (1 liter) water
For the cakes:
3 tablespoons (40gr) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (100gr) sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup (190ml) heavy cream
1 cup ground almonds (blanched or skin on – your preference)
1/4 cup (40gr) sorghum flour (or use 1/4 cup all purpose flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
Prepare the pears:
Place the pears, spices, lemon and water in tall saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Lower the heat and let them simmerfor 15-20 minutes or until the pears are just soft (poke with a toothpick to check).
Remove from the water using a slotted spoon and allow to cool on paper towel or baking rack.
Prepare the cakes:
Preheat the oven to 350F and position a rack in the middle.
Slightly butter or spray 6 ramekins and place them on a baking sheet. Set aside.
In the bowl if an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffly (about 3 minutes). Add the eggs, one a time and beat well in between each addition. Reduce the speed to low and add the vanilla, heavy cream, almonds, flour and baking powder and beat until incorporated. Fill each ramekins about 1/3 full with the batter and place a poached pear in the center.
Bake for 25-30 minutes.
Jessica December 21, 2009 um 7:09 pm
These are beautiful!
Unknown December 21, 2009 um 7:11 pm
I am absolutely in love with your blog! The photography, recipes and stories of your background. I have recently found my passion for baking and cooking and love every minute of it!
Could you please tell me where you got the gorgeous ramekins (both white and purple)? I love how non-traditional they are. 🙂
The Teacher Cooks December 21, 2009 um 8:23 pm
These are absolutely beautiful!
Ashley December 21, 2009 um 9:26 pm
Souffle, cake and custard. Sounds like a wonderful combination. Wishing you and B a delicious and comforting Holiday.
Crossing my fingers that 2010 will bring us together again!
[email protected] December 21, 2009 um 9:57 pm
What a delicious dessert! It might not make you feel better but I am homesick too… especially around this time of year. I have very fond memories of my Christmases in France with my cousins and then grand-parents. Being in the US away from family is not the same. Fortunately, like you, we have friends to see…
Dominique December 21, 2009 um 10:10 pm
Merci pour cette nouvelle recette originale et si bien photographiée… et merci de nous avoir régalés et donné envie de cuisiner pendant toute cette année! Passe d'excellentes fêtes.
Helene December 21, 2009 um 10:31 pm
Nathalie: I had to check on the white ones because I got these about 2 years ago and they are from a company called legourmetchef.com. The purple ones were a hostess gift and the bottom indicates that they are from Pier1.
Rambling Tart December 21, 2009 um 10:38 pm
Absolutely gorgeous! And I love the story from your childhood 🙂 I hope you both feel better soon!
Abby December 21, 2009 um 10:51 pm
My friends who used to live in Chucktown always lamented the fact that they couldn't wear coats there in the winter. (The only part of home they missed!)
I LOVE these photos. And those purple dishes? (Ramekins?) Are adorable.
Sarah December 21, 2009 um 11:30 pm
Very very cute! This recipe sounds delicious. 🙂
Erika from The Pastry Chef At Home December 22, 2009 um 2:30 am
LOVE the idea of a whole poached pear nestled inside the little cake. Very cute dishware as well. Happy Holidays 🙂
anna December 22, 2009 um 3:48 am
Julie @ Willow Bird Baking December 22, 2009 um 4:43 am
Gorgeous pear souffles and story! Bill gets brownie points from the crowd!! 😀
Jen Yu December 22, 2009 um 4:51 am
Oh my poor dears 🙁 You two are sick as well!? I hope you are both on the mend ASAP. Next to being completely incapacitated is to be the walking dead (i.e. sick and feeling like crap, but still able to work). But you know, I could see myself taking one of those gorgeous poached pears and curling up with it for a nap. They're too adorable to eat (but wait until I get a scent of their spices and I'd gladly take a bite). Such pretty cakes. Thanks for all of your GF recipes too – I'll have to try one out on Andrew! xoxo
peasepudding December 22, 2009 um 8:35 am
I totally understand how you feel at this time of year when your family lives on the other side of the globe. We pick a new place to live for what ever reason and love it dearly but Christmas time always brings some homesickness. I too bake completely inappropriate Christmas goodies for the weather just because they give me the comfort of home. I hope one day I will spend a white Christmas back home but in the meant time I will just have to settle for the beach and surf :o)
♥peachkins♥ December 22, 2009 um 9:57 am
these look great. i love the purple ramekin!
shaz December 22, 2009 um 9:57 am
Such beautiful cakes, the mini-pears are so perfect. Hope you both beat the bug soon and have a great Christmas 🙂
Kate December 22, 2009 um 11:03 am
How gorgeous! Hope you're feeling better soon.
Unknown December 22, 2009 um 2:22 pm
Thank you for replying! Have a wonderful holiday! 🙂
Neel | Learn Food Photography December 22, 2009 um 2:33 pm
Hope you feel better soon.
Your food photography never stops amazing me. I just feel I should keep looking at the photos. These are just too awesome.
Love the first and last photograph.The composition and light you have used is just awesome.
Have you used natural light? Do you always?
Would be interesting to know.
Thanks for sharing.
diva December 22, 2009 um 2:47 pm
these fallen soufflés are just beautiful winter desserts to serve! the next time i host a dinner, i'd love to try this recipe out. i'm sure if mine looked as good as yours, the dinner would be an impressive success! 😀 gorgeous photos Tartelette, love your purple ramekin too. x
Thao Phan December 22, 2009 um 3:54 pm
Oh those just look so yum! And Beautiful! I've been poaching a lot of pears lately, but not those. Do which pears so you perfer poaching to eat?
Dani H December 22, 2009 um 10:13 pm
Stunning photos, and scrumptious recipe! Hope you're feeling better. Have a very merry Christmas.
Amy J In SC December 22, 2009 um 10:36 pm
Beautiful once again. This actually looks like something I might be able to achieve considering I have great success with cakes falling and all. ;-]
Anita December 22, 2009 um 11:37 pm
Gorgeous photos. Everything looks wonderful
linda December 23, 2009 um 1:26 am
hi dear tartlette, dropping in to say that i baked "mom's tupp apple cakes" this afternoon (in the muffin top liners) …i so enjoyed creating them & the mini cakes were a successful bake…& lovely looking as well!
happy holidays to you & those you hold dear!
Marc @ NoRecipes December 23, 2009 um 3:56 am
It's like all the great flavours in a Tarte Bourdaloue remixed.
Julia @Mélanger December 23, 2009 um 7:23 am
Just lovely looking little souffle cakes. Would be perfect to at on a winter day, or hot summer day!, anytime. I don't often poach a lot of fruit, and not sure why. It is certainly delicious. I love what you have done here, as always.
fromBAtoParis December 23, 2009 um 8:22 am
I find this recipe so lovely in its simplicity..Great!!
Joyeux Noël pour toi, Helen!
Thorsten December 23, 2009 um 11:20 am
Helen, here in Germany – at least where I live (Rhine region around Cologne) – are always dreaming of a white christmas, knowing that the chances are small. This year we had snow the wekend before christmas, so some hope was there. But today all the snow is gone, melted just one day before christmas eve. And so we are dreaming again…
Have a merry christmas
Maria December 23, 2009 um 2:27 pm
The fallen souffles look delectable and the pictures are absolutely gorgeous. Happy Holidays!
Lauren December 23, 2009 um 4:24 pm
Such a great idea! Fallen souffle – I love it, and they look delicious!
Kate/Kajal December 23, 2009 um 8:50 pm
so sorry to hear about your allergy, i pray that it goes away .
And as for your breathtaking creation … well you've done it again ! Absolutely beautiful, looks very comforting and i can only imagine how that would taste with all that snow outside. I've never seen a white Christmas … will soon someday 🙂
Wishing you Happy Holidays and all the best for 2010
Helene December 23, 2009 um 9:07 pm
Kate: I wish we had snow…alas not where we live! Enjoy baby's first Christmas!
kiss my spatula December 23, 2009 um 10:23 pm
good enough for me too! hope you're better and wishing you good things for the new year!
Deeba PAB December 24, 2009 um 10:20 am
Ever so pretty…happy holidays Helene. Hope you fell better soon!
Caitlin December 25, 2009 um 9:03 am
I don't know if I'm inept or your recipe archive just hates me, but I was on the site earlier today and searched "pear" and didn't come up with anything I wanted to try. Then 'lo and behold I came back to read and it's one of the top posts! I'm sorry to hear about your menieres, but I found the information on the link very interesting. My boyfriend may have it/be developing it…experienced a couple bouts of the tinnitus and vertigo over the past few months, but one of the bouts was during scuba lessons so we're hoping it may be more related to that. Good luck with your diet changes!
Engineer Baker December 25, 2009 um 7:12 pm
Making them right now 🙂 I actually had enough batter to make two more little ramekins, just without pears. I subbed in pecan meal for half of the ground almonds because we had it around after another baking project. They look and smell wonderful!
pastry studio December 26, 2009 um 2:35 pm
Beautiful, beautiful elegant cakes. What a wonderful family recipe. Can't wait to have these on my table. Best holiday wishes to you and your loved ones, Tartelette!
Julie December 27, 2009 um 2:08 am
these look yummy…gorgeous photos and great presentation. Love your blog. Please keep up the good work 🙂
Anonymous December 27, 2009 um 5:13 pm
If these are as good as your double choc and pear cakes, I'll have to add them to my list!
kellypea December 27, 2009 um 8:35 pm
Cheers from one Southern weather-challenged foodie to another, Helen. Thanks as always for your gift of storytelling and deliciously beautiful dessert. Poached pears are such a decadent treat.
Zoë December 30, 2009 um 12:54 am
Just made these for pud tonight – they were really delicious and super quick to assemble, so many thanks from both me and my boyfriend, now lolling on the sofa, bellies uppermost.
Unknown December 30, 2009 um 11:44 pm
I almost licked my computer screen. I'm about 4 months pregnant and for the first part of my first trimester I couldn't even THINK of dessert but now it's all i want. Starting with this!!! mmmmm
allie January 13, 2010 um 2:28 am
just made these for my mom's birthday — so good! hope you don't mind if i post them on my blog (i gave you credit, of course). the recipe is too good not to share!
Amber September 17, 2010 um 5:25 am
I just made these and they were delicious. I had to sub a few of the spices, but it turned out great.
Don't throw away the poaching liquid. I strained it and added a bit of rum or orange liqueur for a nice warm fall cocktail. The perfect hot toddy for the rainy and cold weather we've been having in Seattle.
Allison November 23, 2015 um 9:32 pm
These look gorgeous! Just wondering: what size ramekins did you use?
Helene November 24, 2015 um 2:48 pm
Allison: it's been a while but the ramekins are about 6 to 8 oz each I believe.