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pears

Poire D’Eve

Poire D'Eve


I know, I know…no pictures of Lisa’s wedding cake yet, at least not today….One reason is that I have been saving this wonderful Poire D’Eve cake for a week now and another reason is that I have hundreds of pictures to go through from the wedding and a few other attendees have graciously allowed me to use their shots too so I am working on a little montage. I actually started writing about it yesterday and this morning tons of little details came rushing to my mind so I need to "sit" on it a couple more days to do it justice.

I can’t tell you how much your visits and excitement over this past week have meant to me and I promise to tell you all about it. As ubber critical me, I did find faults until both Lisa and Wayne decided to smear some cake on their noses, but I guess that is normal when you bake for such a dear friend…under the watch of other foodies….Thank you Kelly and Lisa for staying up late, talking to me while I was "spatulating" (new word) the same corner over and over again. Thank you K. for not taking that same spatula and knocking me over the head with it although your look was screaming "put that thing down….Now!!"

Allright, I will give something away about this cake. It was a three tiered square cake which bottom layer was Lisa’s mom favorite carrot cake filled with cream cheese frosting, the middle layer was Lisa’s favorite pumpkin cake with butterscotch filling from Marcel Desaulniers, and the top layer that the two lovebirds have kept and froze was Lisa’s Mothership Chocolate Cake adapted from Orangette. The whole cake was covered in her favorite Italian meringue buttercream from Jacques Torres. I don’t know if it was the near freezing temperatures, the beverages flowing a plenty or just good appetites, but at the end of the night there was just about half the carrot cake left…and I had made the cake for more than the accounted number of guests….I like when people are not shy to eat cake 🙂 Now that your teeth are shattering and your stomach growling, I hope you can wait until the weekend for the recap!!

Bavarian Mousse Ingredients


In the meantime, let’s share a slice of this pear cake, shall we? I forgot to mention the other day that the Chai Persimmon Tatin was inspired by one of my pastry heroes, Hidemi Sugino from his The Dessert Book that Inne graciously sent me last year and even though the recipes are translated, I tend to get inspired by the pictures and the dominant flavors and then change it around. This Poire D’Eve is also inspired by one of his creations, the Pomme D’Eve cake in his other book. Now, this one was given to me by a Japanes exchange student I met a couple of months ago and when we started talking about Japan, I mentioned Sugino and she had her mom send it to me….in Japanese. Needless to say, I once again looked at the picture of his mousse apple cake sandwich between sheets of caramel mousse, apple mousse, vanilla and chocolate genoise and decided to develop a recipe for its cousin, the Poire D’Eve.

I know, Eve ate an apple, not a pear…but if she had had a Forelle pear poached in spices such as star anise, cinnamon, cloves, vanilla and folded with a light bavarian cream, she might have changed her mind. I liked the original apple cake mixing apple, caramel, chocolate so I decided to use these flavors in different texture contrast and medium for this cake. Like Eve and her apple, Forelles are my guilty pleasure when it comes to pears. It is similar in size to a Seckel pear and grows mostly in the Pacific Northwest. When I saw them popping up at the grocery store, I immediately bought a case. They are the perfect snacking pear, both in size and flavor since they remain firm and not milly for a long time. They fit in your pocket, purse or pocket and have this absolute tantalizing fragrance. I bought the case right before my trip so I did poach a bunch of them and preserved them in their poaching syrup. For this recipe I used some I had poached that day so I wrote the recipe accordingly.

Spiced Poached Pears Diptych


The base is a milk chocolate feuillantine topped with a salted butter caramel mousse and a vanilla bavarian cream with diced spiced poached pears throughout. Before applying a glaze made with the poaching syrup I gave the cake some brush strokes with some yellow pearl dust mixed with a bit of water. The finished cake got the two thumbs up from B. who is not that big of a pear fan and commented that the caramel and chocolate complimented the fruits very well. Trust me, he does not only say that because I cook him dinner….he is really my most severe critique!!

Do not be afraid at the term "feuillantine". It is a entremets or cake base usually made with crushed "crepes dentelle" cookies but I was out (ate too many with ice cream) so I substituted crushed corn flakes and added a bit of chopped hazelnuts to enhance the mousses and it worked like a charm. I used the same caramel mousse as the one used in The Translatique, minus the chocolate. The bavarian cream is as easy as 1-2-3 if you have a little patience since you start by making a creme anglaise, adding some gelatin and once cooled, folding in some whipped cream and the poached pears. The spices and strokes of gold dust were the touches that have me in full blown holiday mood right now!! As always, be reassured that you can prepare this step over a couple of days (my head is more scattered than ever these days so any "time" help is welcome)

Poire D'Eve


Poire D’Eve

Serves 8-10

For the poached pears:
4 small pears, Forelles or Seckels, skinned, cored and left whole
3 cups of water
1/2 cup sugar
4 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
one whole nutmeg
1/2 vanilla bean
4 cloves

Over high heat bring the pears, water, sugar and all the spices to a boil (leave the nutmeg whole). Reduce the heat to medium low heat and let the fruit simmer for 30 minutes or until just about fork tender. Remove the pears and put the liquid back on stove and let it reduce down to half its volume. Remove from the heat and strain all the spices. Reserve the liquid for the cake glaze.

For the Feuillantine:
5 oz (150 gr) milk chocolate
4 Tablespoons (55 gr) butter
1 cup (30 gr) corn flakes
2 oz (60 gr) toasted and skinned hazelnuts

Line a 8×8 square pan with aluminium foil and set aside (use a square pastry frame if you have one). Put the cornflakes and hazelnuts in a small freezer bag, close the seam and roll your rolling pin over it until finely crushed (do not run the mixture in the food processor, you want to keep some rough pieces). On top of a double boiler set over medium heat, melt together the chocolate and butter until they come together. Remove from the heat and stir in the cornflakes mixture. Immediately pat the mixture with your fingertips or the back of the spoon at the bottom of the line pan. Set aside while you prepare the mousses.

For the caramel mousse:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 Tb water
2 Tb salted butter, room temperature
1 cup heavy cream, divided

Measure 3/4 cup of cream and refrigerate, this portion will be used to make whipped cream so keep it well chilled. In a microwave or small saucepan, heat the 1/4 cup remaining until it is fairly hot. It will be added to the caramel and by being hot it will prevent the caramel from seizing on you and clumping up. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, add the sugar to the water over medium high heat and cook, without stirring until you get a dark brown caramel. Take the pan off the heat and add the butter and 1/4 cream. It will bubble like mad but it will not run over….if the butter and cream are not cold the bubbling will be minimal and short lived. Stir with a wooden spoon to smooth the caramel if necessary. Let it cool to room temperature Whip the remaining heavy cream to soft peaks in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Fold 1/3 of the whipped cream to the caramel to loosen it up and then add the remaining whipped cream. Spread over the feuillantine base and refrigerate until completely set.

For the Vanilla Pear Bavarian Cream:
4 poached pears (see above), chopped in small dices
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup (50 gr) sugar
1 cup (250 ml) whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean
1 Tb powdered gelatin, sprinkled over 3 Tb water
1 cup heavy cream

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until very pale. In the meantime, in a large saucepan set over medium heat, bring the milk and the vanilla bean (split open and scraped over the milk) to a boil. Slowly pour the milk over the yolks, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan over medium low heat and cook until the cream coats the back of a spoon (as if making creme anglaise). Add the softened gelatin and stir until melted completely into the cream. Let cool to room temperature.
Whip the heavy cream to soft peaks and fold it into the cooled cream base. Fold in the pear dices. Pour the mixture over the caramel mousse until set.

At this point you can skip the painting and glaze but it makes it all the more festive.
For the paint, mix some gold dust with water to make a "paint" and brush in small strokes over the cake. Freeze the cake before applying the warm glaze, do so even if you skip the painting so your mousse won’t melt.

Pear Syrup Glaze:
1/2 cup reserved poaching syrup
1 1/2 teaspoon gelatin, sprinkled over 1 Tablespoon water

Bring the poaching syrup to a boil, add the gelatin and stir until completely dissolved. Let cool to room temperature (if the mixture gels, warm up over low heat until barely melted again). Pour it over the frozen cake and let set in the fridge.
Cut through the cake with a knife dipped in hot water to prevent breaking the glaze instead of slicing through it.

Note: I have terrible manners as I keep forgetting to thank Cenk from Cafe Fernando and the DMBLGIT judges for awarding the Toasted Coconut and Berries Charlottes the overall first place in last month event. I am truly honored and thrilled!

Pear And Pecan Tea Cakes – An Afternoon With Grandma

Pear - Pecan Cakes


I’d like to dedicate this post to another great lady, Bri who passed away last night. My sincere condolences to her husband and her family.

A post I was reading the other week prompted me to take out my grandmother’s china and silverware out of their cases and bring them to life for a little while. The time of a dessert, a picture or a post. The time of a memory I might give my mother about a certain time in her past. I know I’ll never be as creative as Pia in styling and setting the mood for the pieces I inherited but the moment was right to polish those spoons and dust off those cups.

I started to take pictures of the spoons on their own and although pretty, something was missing. I made some tea and hoped that the smell and relaxing atmosphere would inspire me a little. It was allright…not bad, there was still that little "je ne sais quoi" missing. I took a step back and tried to remember the last time I had seen my grandmother use those pieces. Had I? Ever? No, not really….So I tried to imagine grandma holding that cup of tea in one hand, swirling her sugar and lemon slice, spoon in the other. That’s when it hit me! Cake! The one thing missing was one of my grandmother’s tea cakes!

I cannot remember a day without going to her house for a 4 o’clock cup of tea and a slice of cake! There was never a shortage of pretty china and silverware, although I strongly suspect she had secretively put these cups and spoons away for me. Yes, they are just things….and they fell on my lap pretty much the same way they did on hers: they were all handed down from many women before me. If they weren’t in our family, well eh, no big deal. But they are, and they are old, and they speak a little bit of my past and the women in the family every time I take them out, to me it is a big deal. I find it magical that every time I look at them, I can’t wait for 4 o’clock to come around so I can make myself a cup of tea and have some cake.

I started to think about the cake that would reflect the mood around grandma’s table at tea time. Tense! Really! It seems like we were always planning some kind of event, party, celebration, vacation..something. It was also very warm and playful. Mamie Paulette was indeed a study in contradictions. Tense, but with a great sense of humor and a joyous personality. Those little pear and pecan cakes with their little skirt of roasted pear slices are just that. They are a little tense if you don’t bake often but they do not require major scientific knowledge (we all know I would not be baking them if they did!), no intricate technique (nothing wrong with that, just short on time these days!), or special ingredients (nothing wrong here either, grandma just happened to love pears). They also tend to look like roses….like the ones on grandma’s little spoons.

The pear cakes start with a basic cake batter in which I threw chunks of pears and chopped pecans but feel free to use the same dessert with plums, apples, peaches, etc…. For the pear slices, make sure to cut them thin and choose pears of the same size if you can. Slice them first and use the end pieces and short slices, chopped, in the cakes. I used regular size muffin pans but one cup capacity ramequins or baking dished work well too. The tense part of the dessert comes when you position the pear slices around the cakes. Arm yourself with patience and have some bakery twine or rafia strings close by, wrap them around the slices, tie them up and let the cakes sit for 20 minutes. After that time, you can either remove the twine if you think you guests won’t like it, and the slices will stick to the sides of the cakes on their own, of if your friends like ribbons as much as mine do, by all means, leave them be. Well, I did use some hot sugar (I guess I can’t help myself) as I sprinkled some pecan praline on the plates before serving, but you can skip that step of course.

Pear Cakes and Grandma's China


Pear And Pecan Tea Cakes With Pecan Praline:

Makes 8 muffin size tea cakes.

For the roasted pear slices:
8 pears
1/3 cup of sugar

Preheat the oven to 300F. Peel the pears and cut them in thin slices. Reserve the small slices and meaty pieces from what is left on the stem for the cake batter. Place the pear slices on parchment line baking sheet and sprinkle them with the sugar. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool.

For the tea cakes:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 egg
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
remnant pear slices and pieces from the pears used in the previous step, chopped, plus more if needed to make one cup.

In a mixer, combine the sugar, oil, and egg and whisk with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add the flour, baking soda and cinnamon and whisk until the batter starts to come together. Add the milk and whisk until smooth. By hand, fold in the pecans and pears. Divide the batter evenly among 8 muffin cups sprayed with cooking spray and bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes back free of crumbs. Let cool.
Arrange the cooled roasted pear slices around the cake and secure with bakery twine (use butcher twine if you don’t plan on serving them tied up). Refrigerate if not ready to serve within the hour. All the elements will keep fine for 3 days in the fridge but they are easier to assemble and nicer to eat at room temperature.

For the pecan praline:
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup chopped pecans

Place the pecans on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Place the sugar and 2 tablespoons of water in a heavy saucepan on high heat and cook until you get a golden caramel. Immediately pour it over the pecans and let sit until cold and hard. Chop into small pieces.

Pear - Pecan Cakes

Saffron And Vanilla Poached Pears

Saffron & Vanilla Poached Pears


It has been really hot and muggy in the last week or so, nothing unusual in our area but we all took it as the usual sign of upcoming rain and thunderstorms. I don’t mind hot and I don’t mind rain, I actually don’t mind hot rain…I dislike the few hours before the sky falls open. The dogs seem to pair up and want out every thirty minutes although they just stand there noses up to the air.

Three days a week I work almost completely from home so they "know" that they will be taken out, played with, petted and loved all this in between cracking a few many eggs and rolling out pastry dough. I get up early and start baking or writing depending on what has not been done the day before and they lie around, right outside the kitchen. When the smell of the coffee brewing reaches their snouts, they suddenly jolt up and want out. Out of the five households in our little custer around the curve, 3 of us work from home while looking over kids or animals. It is not unusual for us to be in our yards, still in our jammies sipping coffee and making sleepy small talk.

Except this morning. This morning was one of those morning you want your entire body to feel, your entire soul to take in. You want mornings like this to enter your pores and breathe inside you for as long as you can take it. This morning, I felt the dew under my bare feet. Not the one you want to capture when you know the day is going to be blistering hot, no, it was harsh and delightfully unsettling. This morning, I felt goosebumps along my arms and legs, and a whiff of cold air brought the feeling of a season trying to change. The dogs started bumping around the yard, excited by all these new scents and sensations. I started taping my feet in the dewy grass, knowing full well it would be another couple of months before we’d get another morning like this, all chilly and wet, all grassy and autumnal. If only I could be a painter of scents….

We all went back upstairs and resumed our activities, baking for me, and you guessed it, sleeping for them. While I was going down my baking to do list, I could not shake away that feeling I had earlier in the yard. It was inspiring and humbling at the same time. Nature does its thing and we just happen to be in the middle of it. So after I was done with half the "to-dos", I tried to recapture the flavors I sensed earlier.

Vanilla Bean Pods & Saffron


Pears seemed perfect by in their femininity and yet firm and assertive natural scent. Vanilla, the smell of a lazy embrace. Saffron, the dewy grass under my feet. Poached….well because we were about to get soaked!! This is a most easy dessert yet rich in flavors, leaving you with nothing with goosebumps. I realize that vanilla beans and saffron are not cheap ingredients. I was very lucky that my mom sent a care package with a bag of vanilla beans and that Veronica shared some of her saffron with me for my birthday back in May. Like most people, we are on a budget but I like to save a little and invest in the "real" thing once in a while. It might seem trivial during our strange economic times to spend extras on more expensive food items, but that is really between you and….you! I am bumm….people send me care package… 🙂 On a serious note, if you want to try this without the vanilla beans and saffron, use 2 Tb pure vanilla extract and the juice of one orange (blood orange if you can) in the poaching liquid and you will still have an excellent dessert.

Saffron And Vanilla Poached Pears:

Serves 4

4 cups water
1 vanilla bean
1 to 2 teaspoons saffron
3/4 cup (170 gr) sugar
juice of one lemon
4 pears

– Peel the pears and sprinkle them with the lemon juice and set them aside while you prepare the poaching liquid.
Note: I don’t core the pears in this dessert, I would do it if they were filled, I like eating around the core but feel free to do so.
– In a large pot or deep saucepan, combine the water, saffron and sugar. Split open the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds out of the pod with a paring knife. Add the seeds and pods to the water and sugar mixture. Bring to boil over medium high heat, stirring a couple of times to make sure the sugar is dissolved. Bring down to a simmer and add the pears with the lemon juice.
– Cover the pot and cook the pears 10-12 minutes, turning them halfway through to make sure they cook evenly and all the way through (insert a toothpick to check).
– Remove the pears from the liquid and set them aside in deep serving plates or small ramequins.
– Simmer the poaching liquid until it reduces by half, about 10 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean and pour the syrup over the pears and serve either hot or room temperature.
I like mine plain but fee free to add some ice cream or whipped cream.

Saffron & Vanilla Poached Pears