Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Baked Pears with Dark Chocolate and Almond Frangipane

Dessert...the perfectly ripe pears were the inspiration for this, as I knew that they would over ripen before we had a chance to eat them all. My first thought was pear crumble, then I saw the small piece of dark chocolate left from making the Dark,Milk and White Chocolate Truffles.

That's when I decided to halve the pears, and fill the hollow from the core with chocolate and frangipane. I checked my nut supply and I had exactly enough almonds to make the frangipane...a definite sign that it was meant to be!

Make the frangipane, by creaming together:

2 ounces softened butter
2 ounces of icing sugar

When the butter and icing sugar are light and fluffy, add:

1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

In a food processor, grind until fine:

2 ounces whole almonds
1/2 ounce flour

Add this to the creamed butter, sugar and eggs and mix until well combined.

Scrape into a bowl and set aside until needed.

Turn the oven on to heat to 350F, and grease an ovenproof dish.

In a small pot, heat to melt the butter:

2 ounces butter
1/4 cup maple syrup

Peel, halve and core 4 pears. I used Bartlett pears.

Place the pear halves into a bowl, add the melted butter and maple syrup and toss gently to coat the pears.

Arrange the pears in a single layer in the greased dish. If you need to, cut a small piece off the bottom of the pears to help them sit flat.

Reserve the melted butter and maple syrup.

Cut small chunks from a piece of dark chocolate and place them into each pear cavity.

Divide the frangipane between the 8 pear halves, and spread over the chocolate, mounding slightly.

Pour the reserved butter and maple syrup over the pears.

Bake until the pears are soft, the frangipane is golden and bubbling. It will overflow slightly, but this will get nice and crispy.

Allow the pears to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

I served one pear half per person, accompanied by softly whipped cream. The pears can be eaten hot or at room temperature.

  • Any type of pear will work, as long as it is ripe, but still firm. If it is too soft it will turn into pear sauce while baking; if it is too hard it won't soften enough. My rule of thumb is if I would eat it, it should be good to bake. I used Bartlett pears, as I prefer those for eating; Bosc or Anjou are good choices for baking or poaching.
  • To core the pears, cut them in half, and use a melon baller or small spoon to scoop out the core, creating a space for the chocolate. Use a paring knife to remove any of the stem that might remain.
  • If you don't have maple syrup, use honey or brown sugar. Coating the pears in the melted butter and maple syrup helps to prevent them from oxidizing.
  • Spices such as cinnamon, dried or fresh ginger, nutmeg or five spice can be added to the butter and syrup.
  • I had a choice of white, milk and dark chocolate...I chose dark as it is the most popular amongst the people eating the dessert. Any type of chocolate can be used with pears.
  • Frangipane can be made with any nuts. Those that work well with pears are almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios and pecans.
  • Orange or lemon zest can be added to the frangipane.
  • The frangipane can be used to fill other fruits for baking...apples, peaches or nectarines, plums, apricots. The choice of adding or omitting the chocolate is yours.
  • Turn this into a tart by using a pre-baked tart shell instead of the ovenproof dish. Make sure the pastry is not fully cooked, as it will finish baking along with the pears. Make a double recipe of the frangipane and spread a thin layer onto the pastry, and then scatter the chocolate chunks over it. Place the pears with the cut side down, and spread the remaining frangipane around them. Do not add the reserved maple syrup and butter...save it for another (drizzle it on pancakes!). Bake until the pears are tender and the frangipane is set and golden. You can drizzle melted chocolate over the pears as a garnish, or dust the cooled tart with icing sugar.
  • Use peanuts to make the frangipane, and sliced bananas instead of pears in your tart.
  • The frangipane can be made up to a week ahead and stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator. The pears can be coated and filled a few hours before baking. Wrap the dish well to prevent oxidizing (the melted butter and maple syrup will also help).

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