What To Do With Poached Pears? Almond Cream and Pear Stacks

February 14th, 2012  |  9 Comments

 

I’m supposed to be watching my weight right now. The holiday season wasn’t too kind to my waistline, and summer will rear it’s head in no time. So as logic should have it, I made calorie-happy poached pear stacks, since I had a bunch of spiced poached pears floating (literally!) around.

I promised myself I would just take a small taste. To make sure the dessert didn’t suck.

And lo and behold, it didn’t just not suck, it turned out to be one of the best desserts on this whole dang blog. At first, I told myself I’d just lick the spoon clean. Then when the spoon was left gleaming, an instant air of melacholia hit me, so much so that I dipped the spoon back in the almond cream to dirty it up again, and have a fresh excuse to get another taste.

The whole thing was really a runaway train. Before I knew what was happening, I was nibbling on puff pastry, then puff pastry with a few pear slices, then how could I just eat these things in parts? I needed all the components together. Soon enough, I was shoveling in full spoonfuls of the whole caboodle.

So the moral of the story is, if there is only one dessert I would make from this blog, it would be this one. It is really, really good.

The puff pastry is a light, buttery, crunchy foundation, working as an ideal counterpart to the twinge of acidity coming from the pears, and the smooth silkiness coming from the almond cream. The sauce, as always melds it all together. Here, the caramel is so dreamy and rich, it might as well be sold at Bergdorf’s.

Yes, there are 4 whole components, but the beauty is they are a piece of cake (a piece of puff?) to make on their own and can all be done ahead. Actually, they all do need to be made ahead, at least 4 hours ahead, just to keep you on your toes. All that’s left for serving is the assembly. The poached pear recipe is here, and if you’re feeling ambitious enough to make your own puff pastry, there’s my DIY recipe here. Or purchase an all-butter pastry such as this one, and call it a day. If you find the chocolate puff pastry, that would work well too.

Poached Pear Stacks with Almond Cream and Caramel Sauce

There’s enough stuff to make up to 12 servings, but you can make 4, 6, 8, 10 or heck, even 1, and just store the rest of the stuff. The almond mousse is inspired by something Emeril has made.

Components:

Spiced poached pears, recipe here

Almond cream, full recipe below

Puff pastry — purchase all butter puff pastry, or make the recipe here

Caramel sauce, full recipe below

Powdered sugar, needed to sprinkle on the puff pastry

Almonds. Roasted, salted and chopped are even better

For the almond mousse:

1/2 cup (140 g) almond butter

5 tablespoons total of granulated sugar, divided into three sets: 2 tablespoons (25 g), 2 tablespoons (25 g),

and 1 tablespoon (13 g)

1 cup (237 ml) heavy cream

2 tablespoons (30 ml) water

3 large egg yolks

1 teaspoon (5 ml) almond extract

1/2 teaspoon (3 ml) vanilla extract

For the caramel sauce:

1 cup (225 g) sugar

1 1/2 cups (355 ml) heavy cream

First, let’s get that almond cream going:

Our ingredients to conquer.

 

Pour the heavy cream and 2 tablespoons of sugar, along with the almond and vanilla extracts into a large bowl.

 

Start that whipping. Here it is softly whipped. You can see light streaks starting to form.

 

And here it is firmly whipped, ’til it stands up and salutes. It goes in the fridge for the moment.

 

Next, mix 2 tablespoons of sugar  in with the almond cream. Leave it for the moment.

 

At this point, get a small pot of water boiling on your stovetop, about an inch’s worth, and then get the patiently waiting yolks, remaining tablespoon of sugar and water into a large bowl.

 

Once the pot has come to a boil, place the yolk bowl over it to make a makeshift double boiler. Start whisking like a crazy person. Don’t let those eggs set too fast and scramble up.

 

In a couple of minutes, you’ll see the mix thicken up into a frothy liquid. I wish I could say you were done, but you’re not. Keep whisking, don’t you dare stop.

 

In another 3 or so minutes, you’ll see a ribbon trail start to form in the mix when you lift your whisk. NOW you’re done. Take the bowl off the heat, being careful not to sear your delicate flesh from the steam.

 

Pour in the almond butter.

 

 And work it in with a rubber spatula. Right now, it looks like something I won’t mention, but we can agree it’s not pretty.

 

Grab that cream that’s been chilling in the fridge, and scoop 1/3 of it into the almondy bowl, and do your best to fold it in. It won’t be too easy because the almond mix is so dense and the cream is so light. But it’s a marriage that can happen if you’re persistent.

 

Here it is starting to happen.

 

The rest of the cream can then be folded in with a lot less heartache.

 

Here is the finished smooth mousse. Cover with plastic wrap and banish it into the fridge to chill and firm up, at least 4 hours ahead. Or you can even make this up to 4 days ahead. You’re welcome.

 

While the mousse is chilling, make that caramel sauce.

Just 2 items needed!

 

Let’s caramelize the sugar. As you know, I like the dry caramel method. I think the it is far superior to the wet caramel method, meaning you don’t use water to start the caramel. There’s no chance it will crystallize.

Set a light colored pan (so you can see the change in color) over medium-high heat, and sprinkle a little of the sugar over the surface.

almond-brittle-sugar-1

Watch it start to melt.

almond-brittle-sugar-2

 

Add more sugar.

almond-brittle-sugar-3

 

You can stir to keep the stuff on the bottom and edges from burning.

almond-brittle-sugar-4

 

Add the remaining sugar, and let all of it melt down and deepen in color. Be patient with the lumps that may form. They will melt away. Stir every few seconds so the heat is evenly distributed.

almond-brittle-sugar-5

 

Once all the sugar is melted, let it continue to darken until you get a nice, deep golden brown color. Make sure all the sugar is completely dissolved, too. Looks like a summer tan, oh yeah.

almond-brittle-sugar-melted

 

Dribble a little of the cream in and whisk. It will bubble and and spit up. Some of it will even harden around your whisk from the cold cream hitting the hot sugar. That’s ok, it will dissolve. Slowly continue adding the cream and whisk. You’l see the caramel lighten in color and there will likely be some hard chunks of sugar still in the mix. Keep stirring and bring to a boil. Cook until the sugar lumps are completely dissolved, about 3 minutes.

 

Here we go.

 

And done.

 

Strain the caramel sauce into a small bowl. It will be more runny while it’s hot but will stiffen up a bit when it cools. You can keep this refrigerated for up to 5 days. Give it a good stir before serving. If you want to swoon, try it over vanilla ice cream.

 

The day you want to serve, bake the puff pastry:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

First take a COLD, nice sized piece of dough, about 8″ x 10″, give or take, and sprinkle both the table and the surface of the dough with some flour, so it doesn’t stick to everything in sight.

 

Roll it pretty thin, say 1/8″.

 

Carefully cut the dough into squares, whatever size you like. Just eyeballing them is good enough. I admit I cut mine a little too small, because when I ate the dessert, I wished I cut them twice as big. A pizza cutter would cut cleaner than a knife, but mine was in the dishwasher.

 

Move each one to a parchment-lined baking sheet, being careful not to pull them out of shape during the transfer. Poke them with a fork a few times to release the steam while they bake.

 

Generously sprinkle the bunch with powdered sugar for a little sweetness…

 

…and then lay a sheet of parchment paper right over them.

 

And right over that, lay a another sheet pan. Yes, you heard right. The weight of it will keep them from rising too much. They’ll stay relatively flat but still be flaky. Throw this whole party into the preheated oven, and bake. As always, you’re watching out for a golden brown color and it may take a different amount of time in your oven than mine. Mine took exactly 18 minutes. I suggest you start peeking under the tray after 15 minutes, and then bake them in increments of 3 minutes if they’re close.

 

The finished squares! Let them cool completely. You can bake these up to a few hours before serving. Puff pastry is best the day it’s baked.

 

Chop some roasted, salted almonds and keep them to the side.

 

You’ll see that the mousse should have set up to a pretty firm but creamy consistency after at least 4 hours in the fridge.

 

Fill a plain pastry bag outfitted with a plain, medium-sized tip, something like this. You can keep the whole filled bag refrigerated until you’re ready to serve.

 

 When you’re ready to serve, let’s assemble:
Thinly slice a bunch of pears. Take note, they will fan out much nicer if they are sliced thinly. They don’t lay flat when the slices are thick.

Fan them out over some puff pastry squares — 2 per person. So if you are serving four people, set up 8 puff pastry squares with fanned pears.

Squirt some almond cream over each piece of pear pastry. You will also need a piece of puff pastry WITHOUT pears for each person for the top, squirted with almond cream. I leave off the pears for the top piece so it looks neat.

With me so far? All together, that makes 3 pieces of puff pastry per person, 2 have pears, and ALL have almond cream. Man, I hope that’s clear. Maybe it’s best to just look at the pictures?

In order for the whole shebang not to slide around the plate, I make a little dot of almond cream that acts like glue in the center.

Then, I build my stack. First, the 2 squares of puff pastry with both pears and almond cream.

 

 Then, the last piece with JUST almond cream. See what I mean now?

A downpour of caramel sauce to finish. Don’t be shy with it.

And a few sprinkled almonds.

Try to save some for your guests.

Poached Pear Stacks with Almond Cream and Caramel Sauce

There’s enough stuff to make up to 12 servings, but you can make 4, 6, 8, 10 or heck, even 1, and just store the rest of the stuff. The almond mousse is inspired by something Emeril has made.

Components:

Spiced poached pears, recipe here

Almond cream, full recipe below

Puff pastry — purchase all butter puff pastry, or make the recipe here

Caramel sauce, full recipe below

Powdered sugar, needed to sprinkle on the puff pastry

Almonds. Roasted, salted and chopped are even better

For the almond mousse:

1/2 cup (140 g) almond butter

5 tablespoons total of granulated sugar, divided into three sets: 2 tablespoons (25 g), 2 tablespoons (25 g),

and 1 tablespoon (13 g)

1 cup (237 ml) heavy cream

2 tablespoons (30 ml) water

3 large egg yolks

1 teaspoon (5 ml) almond extract

1/2 teaspoon (3 ml) vanilla extract

For the caramel sauce:

1 cup (225 g) sugar

1 1/2 cups (355 ml) heavy cream

 

First, let’s get that almond cream going:

1. Pour the heavy cream and 2 tablespoons of sugar, along with the almond and vanilla extracts into a large bowl. Whip to firm peaks and refrigerate bowl for now.

2. Next, mix 2 tablespoons of sugar  in with the almond cream. Leave it for the moment.

3. At this point, get a small pot of water boiling on your stovetop, about an inch’s worth, and then get the patiently waiting yolks, remaining tablespoon of sugar and water into a large bowl. Once the pot has come to a boil, place the yolk bowl over it to make a makeshift double boiler. Start whisking like a crazy person. Don’t let those eggs set too fast and scramble up.

In a couple of minutes, you’ll see the mix thicken up into a frothy liquid. I wish I could say you were done, but you’re not. Keep whisking, don’t you dare stop. In another 3 or so minutes, you’ll see a ribbon trail start to form in the mix when you lift your whisk. NOW you’re done. Take the bowl off the heat, being careful not to sear your delicate flesh from the steam.

4. Pour in the almond butter and work it in with a rubber spatula. Right now, it looks like something I won’t mention, but we can agree it’s not pretty.

5. Grab that cream that’s been chilling in the fridge, and scoop 1/3 of it into the almondy bowl, and do your best to fold it in. It won’t be too easy because the almond mix is so dense and the cream is so light. But it’s a marriage that can happen if you’re persistent. The rest of the cream can then be folded in with a lot less heartache.

6. Cover with plastic wrap and banish it into the fridge to chill and firm up, at least 4 hours ahead. Or you can even make this up to 4 days ahead.

 

While the mousse is chilling, make that caramel sauce:

1. Let’s caramelize the sugar. Set a light colored pan (so you can see the change in color) over medium-high heat, and sprinkle a little of the sugar over the surface. Watch it start to melt. Add another sprinkling of sugar of the whole surface. You can stir to keep the stuff on the bottom and edges from burning.

Add the remaining sugar, and let all of it melt down and deepen in color. Be patient with the lumps that may form. They will melt away. Stir every few seconds so the heat is evenly distributed. Once all the sugar is melted, let it continue to darken until you get a nice, deep golden brown color. Make sure all the sugar is completely dissolved, too.

2. Dribble a little of the cream in and whisk. It will bubble and and spit up. Some of it will even harden around your whisk from the cold cream hitting the hot sugar. That’s ok, it will dissolve. Slowly continue adding the cream and whisk. You’l see the caramel lighten in color and there will likely be some hard chunks of sugar still in the mix. Keep stirring and bring to a boil. Cook until the sugar lumps are completely dissolved, about 3 minutes.

3. Strain the caramel sauce through a fine mesh sieve into a small bowl. It will be more runny while it’s hot but will stiffen up a bit when it cools. You can keep this refrigerated for up to 5 days. Give it a good stir before serving. If you want to swoon, try it over vanilla ice cream.

 

The day you want to serve, bake the puff pastry:

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

First take a COLD, nice sized piece of dough, about 8″ x 10″, give or take, and sprinkle both the table and the surface of the dough with some flour, so it doesn’t stick to everything in sight. Roll it pretty thin, say 1/8″.

2. Carefully cut the dough into squares, whatever size you like. Just eyeballing them is good enough. A pizza cutter would cut cleaner than a knife, but a knife will work ok.

3. Move each one to a parchment-lined baking sheet, being careful not to pull them out of shape during the transfer. Poke them with a fork a few times to release the steam while they bake.

4. Generously sprinkle the bunch with powdered sugar for a little sweetness and then lay a sheet of parchment paper right over them. And right over that, lay a another sheet pan. Yes, you heard right. The weight of it will keep them from rising too much. They’ll stay relatively flat but still be flaky. Throw this whole party into the preheated oven, and bake. As always, you’re watching out for a golden brown color and it may take a different amount of time in your oven than mine. Mine took exactly 18 minutes. I suggest you start peeking under the tray after 15 minutes, and then bake them in increments of 3 minutes if they’re close.

5. Let the finished squares cool completely. You can bake these up to a few hours before serving. Puff pastry is best the day it’s baked.

6. Chop some roasted, salted almonds and keep them to the side.

 

Assembly:

1. You’ll see that the mousse should have set up to a pretty firm but creamy consistency after at least 4 hours in the fridge. Fill a plain pastry bag outfitted with a plain, medium-sized tip. You can keep the whole filled bag refrigerated until you’re ready to serve.

2. Thinly slice a bunch of pears. Take note, they will fan out much nicer if they are sliced thinly. They don’t lay flat when the slices are thick. Fan them out over some puff pastry squares — 2 per person. So if you are serving four people, set up 8 puff pastry squares with fanned pears.

3. Squirt some almond cream over each piece of pear pastry. You will also need a piece of puff pastry WITHOUT pears for each person for the top, squirted with almond cream. I leave off the pears for the top piece so it looks neat.

With me so far? All together, that makes 3 pieces of puff pastry per person, 2 have pears, and ALL have almond cream.

4. In order for the whole shebang not to slide around the plate, I make a little dot of almond cream that acts like glue in the center. Then, I build my stack. First, the 2 squares of puff pastry with both pears and almond cream.  Then, the last piece with JUST almond cream fro the top.

5. Drizzle some caramel sauce over and around it to finish, and sprinkle with the chopped nuts.

Ooh la la.






9 Responses to “What To Do With Poached Pears? Almond Cream and Pear Stacks”

  1. Tina says:

    AWESOME!! I will try it this weekend. Will let you know.

  2. I completely concur with your method for dry sugar process to make caramel. The old fashioned french way is fraught with peril, while creating a flavorful caramel sauce in a dry pan is a whiz. My only difference from your method, is I melt the sugar in a cast iron black pan. Fool proof.

    That said,your dessert looks and sounds delicious. Not that it will help those of us addicted to sugar to kick the habit. What what the heck. There’s always tomorrow. I’m rushing off to the kitchen now to poach and caramelize and stack.

    Thanks for making it irresistible.

  3. Charlie says:

    OHHHHHH!

    I have no other words.

    Charlie

  4. Tina says:

    I noticed you whisk everything by hand. Can I use the handheld mixer to whisk stuff instead?

  5. PastryPal says:

    Tina, yes, absolutely. I do some of the recipes by hand to demonstrate that they can be done manually, in case some people don’t have the equipment. In the grand scheme of recipes, anywhere you see a whisk, whether electric or manual, you can interchange it with the other.

  6. Tina says:

    You are right! This is DELICIOuus! I actually made the pastry from scratch (from your puff pastry recipe). I couldn’t bring myself paying the $10 Dufour pastry.
    The only thing I made differently is the caramel sauce. I added butter and vanilla extract.
    Everybody in my family loves it! Thanks again.

  7. I adore poached pears but your recipe of Napolean poached pears with almond cream looks sensational. I do the same thing as you – test a little sample and then somehow it’s gone. Well at least you know you accomplished a successful recipe. Thank you for sharing your step by step photos. They are very helpful.

  8. Mrs Ergül says:

    Wow the drizzling caramel sauce is so alluring! Will keep this in mind for future entertaining!

  9. This looks amazing! And does not seem to be complicated (I will have to try to confirm!)….

Post a Comment

Your E-Mail will be kept private. * = required fields.