31 December 2012
Christmas dinner: the dessert
Vegan desserts are easy: just go for the fruit. Since it's winter, we went for pears. It also helped substantially that we've been watching a lot of Jacques Pepin videos (what else is new?) and had just seen him make a delightful-looking dessert of pears in coffee syrup. Pears in coffee syrup it is!
We didn't want to have to watch a video while cooking, so I went searching and uncovered this article on Jacques Pepin's pears in coffee syrup from a Chicago Tribune article originally published when I was nine. Um. Hooray! We ended up combining the two recipes a bit, and doubling them besides. I left the amounts as is for six servings here.
You can use any pear you have for this. We decided on tiny seckel pears, which we kept whole for presentation. If you use larger pears, you might want to halve and seed them.
Poached pears in coffee syrup
pears for 6 (we served 2 little ones apiece)
2 cups coffee
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Start by washing and peeling your pears.
We had a slight issue deciding what to do about the pear seeds. The recipe said to core the pears out from the bottom. This did not work so well. So we decided to just remove the blossom scars and leave the seeds for people to eat around. I thought this might turn out to be a problem, but when it came down to eating my pears, I discovered it was actually not a big deal at all. So. Don't worry about it.
Make a syrup by gently heating your coffee, sugar, and vanilla over medium heat. Add your pears, in one layer if possible, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until your pears are tender to the point of a knife.
Remove and reserve your pears. Keep cooking the coffee syrup until it reduces by about 1/3. To thicken, mix a couple spoonfuls of the syrup with half a teaspoon of arrowroot in a measuring cup. Add a bit of arrowroot mixture to the syrup and stir well; it will thicken on contact. You can add as much of the arrowroot mixture as you prefer. Keep in mind that the coffee syrup will also thicken a bit off the heat.
Next, add a glug of brandy (or other liqueur of your choice--kahlua, frangelico?), stir, and remove the syrup from the heat. Pour it over the pears.
Chill your pears and syrup until you're ready to eat.
Serve a pear or two per person, with a spoonful of syrup. You can choose to serve the pears over something like pound cake, or to add ice cream or whipped cream, but we just left ours as is.
Garnish each dish with shaved chocolate and sliced toasted almonds. We used this exciting dark chocolate we found at the East Lansing food co-op.
The finished product was pretty adult and sophisticated, with an edge of bitterness to contrast with sweet fruit and sugar syrup.
So that was our massive Christmas feast. Now all we have to do is sit down and breathe and wait for the new year. Oh, and go get bagels and cream cheese and champagne and orange juice. But we can handle that, right? Right?
I hope all of you guys had an amazing holiday, and are looking forward to a wonderful new year!