Week 139: Poire D’Eve

When I first saw this recipe, I was really intrigued by the flavours – caramel mousse, chocolate hazelnut and spiced pears. Spiced pears – how exciting is that!

I didn’t think the neighbourhood grocer would be too pleased if I asked to buy 2 cinnamon sticks, 4 star anise, 4 cloves and 1 nutmeg, so I asked a colleague of mine if she has them at home, and she did!

Makes an 8″ x 8″ square cake (I cut this into 16 portions)

For the poached pears

4 small Packham pears, skinned, halved and cored

3 cups of water

100g granulated sugar

4 star anise

2 cinnamon sticks

one whole nutmeg

1/2 vanilla bean

4 cloves

1) Bring pears, water, sugar and all the spices to a boil. Turn the heat to medium low and allow mixture to simmer for 30 minutes or until the pears are fork tender. 

2) Remove the pears and allow the liquid to reduce to half its volume. Strain and reserve the liquid for the cake glaze.

For the feuilletine layer

150g milk chocolate couverture 

55g butter

30g pâté feuilletine or gavotte

60g toasted and skinned hazelnuts

1) Line a 8×8 square pan with baking parchment and set aside (use a square pastry frame if you have one). 

2) Put the feuilletine and hazelnuts in a small freezer bag, close the seam and roll your rolling pin over it until finely crushed. 

3) Melt together the chocolate and butter on a Bain-Marie until they come together.

4) Remove from the heat and stir in the hazelnut mixture. Immediately pat the mixture with your fingertips or the back of the spoon at the bottom of the line pan. 

5) Allow to chill in the refrigerator until needed.

For the caramel mousse

100g granulated sugar

2 tbsp water

30g salted butter, room temperature

180g + 60g heavy cream, divided

1) Measure 180g of cream and refrigerate. Keep this chilled to be whipped later.

2) In a small saucepan, heat the remaining cream until tiny bubbles have appeared around the edges. 

3) 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. 

4) Take the pan off the heat and add the butter and hot cream. Stir the bubbling mixture with a wooden spoon to smooth the caramel if necessary. Let it cool to room temperature.

5) Whip the remaining heavy cream to soft peaks in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. 

6) Fold 1/3 of the whipped cream to the caramel to loosen it up and then add the remaining whipped cream. Spread over the feuilletine base and refrigerate until completely set.

For the vanilla pear Bavarian cream

4 poached pears (from above), chopped in small dices

4 egg yolks

50g granulated sugar

250g whole milk

1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste

1 tbsp gelatine powder bloomed in 3 tbsp water

240g heavy cream

1) In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until very pale. 

2) Meanwhile, in a large saucepan set over medium heat, bring the milk and the vanilla bean paste to a boil. Slowly pour the milk over the yolks to temper, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan over medium low heat and cook until the cream coats the back of a spoon. 

3) Remove from heat, add the softened gelatin and stir until melted completely into the cream. Let cool to room temperature.

4) 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.

To decorate

125g reserved poaching syrup

1 1/2 tsp gelatine powder bloomed in 1 tbsp water

Some gold dust mixed with a bit of water

1) Prepare the glaze by bringing the syrup to a boil.

2) Remove from heat, add the gelatine and stir until melted completely. Allow to cool to room temperature.

3) Mix some gold dust with water to make a “paint” and brush in small strokes over the cake. 

4) Freeze the cake before applying the warm glaze.

5) Pour the room temperature glaze over the frozen cake and let set in the fridge.

The feuilletine layer and caramel mousse were good, but at first, I thought the vanilla pear Bavarian cream was a little underwhelming. The strange thing was, it actually tasted better after it sat in the fridge for a day or two. I guess it took some time for the pears and Bavarian cream to meld together. It turned out to be a very refreshing dessert, which felt seemingly guiltless (but I am sure that is not true!).

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