When I think about sugar art, spun sugar and sugar shards immediately come to mind. Short of sounding like a broken record, I have not yet attained such expertise in the art of caramel making so I was resigned to the fact that I was not going to have an entry for Sugar High Friday #26 hosted by Habeas Brulee. But as luck would have it, one of my Christmas purchases was "The Sweet Life Desserts from Chanterelle" by Kate Zuckerman, and on its cover was this sexy pair of caramelized pears. I was thinking why not let the caramel follow the sensual curves of this delicious winter fruit instead of me shaping it into a tangle of sugary mess.
The original recipe called for ten pears but I decided to just make four. The pears need to be ripe and have some give when you press on them. Underripe pears will turn mealy and overripe ones will not be able to withstand the cooking process.
Honey Glazed Roasted Pears
adapted from “The Sweet Life” by Kate Zuckerman
4 ripe pears (I used Bosc, but you can use Anjou or Bartlett too)
1 ½ cup of water
3 oz. sugar
3 oz honey
strips of lemon zest
1 tbs. butter.
Preheat oven to 425 °F. Set the rack on the upper shelf of the oven but leave enough space for your pears to clear the top.
Peel the pears. Leave the stem on if it has one. Cut 1/3 inch from the base of the pear so it can stand up in the roasting pan (I used an 8×8 pan). Add the pears to the pan and add all the ingredients. You do not need to mix them up since it will all blend together as the mixture melts into a syrup in the oven.
Place the pan on a baking sheet since the juices might boil over. Bake for about 30 minutes until all the sugar and honey have dissolved and the tops of the pears begin to brown. Remove from oven; use a rubber spatula to push the pears on their side. Return to oven for another 20 minutes. Rotate the pears to their opposite side and bake for another 20 minutes. At this time the pears will start changing color, the tops of the pears will start darkening; do not be alarmed if this happens.
After braising the pears in the sugar-honey mixture, it is time to roast it. The pears are ready for this next process when a knife slides easily into them. Remove from oven and stand the pears back up and baste them with the pan’s caramelized juices. Return it to the oven for another 15 minutes. Repeat this process 2 more times or until the top of the pears are almost black and the flesh is a beautiful caramel color. Remove the pears from the oven and baste one last time. The basting liquid should be a really thick syrupy caramel by now.
Remove the pears from the roasting pan and allow to cool. Save the caramel sauce to drizzle when serving. Once the pears have cooled, remove the core with a small melon baller. You need to carve out a cone shape from the bottom to remove the pear’s seeds. To serve reheat the pears in the oven.
The pears can be served with a dollop of whipped cream or crème fraiche.
The pan juices were boiling furiously while in the oven. This can cause quite a mess so be ready for it. I think it would be best to line the baking sheet with some aluminum foil extending past the sheet and curved slightly upward so it can catch the splatters. Though this is the first recipe I tried from this cookbook, I am excited to try other recipes. Aside from being just another book on desserts, Kate explains some techniques and food science that an amateur or professional baker might find pretty useful. For example, in this recipe she explained the browning and caramelization concept called Maillard reaction which is the reaction of carbohydrates to the nitrogen that the protein supplies. This phenomena is responsible for the color,taste, aroma and other flavors that is introduced by the presence of heat. For the roasted pear recipe, the range of browning and flavor comes from the caramelization of different sugars present ; sucrose from sugar,fructose and glucose from the honey and finally fructose,glucose and starch from pears and to a certain lesser level the Mallaird reactions due to the proteins in the pear. I cannot wait to try another recipe from this book. This will certainly be another classic!