The days are getting shorter – and colder – and rainier! – as we slowly move toward winter. This weekend we even get to turn our clocks back, so as of next week, it’ll be dark by 4 p.m.! The kids will be waiting for their school buses in the pitch dark in the morning, and by the time they get home, it’ll be dark again. Yay! Can you tell how excited I am?! I so wish we could just move our clock forward to May right now!
Thankfully, there are things that help me to get over my rainy blues, namely lots and lots of wonderful fall produce that we have at our fingertips these days. And even though apples are often praised as the perfect autumn fruit, I want to kick them out of the spotlight for a minute and instead focus on their humble cousins, pears, because I think they’re being undeservedly ignored. To me they’re way cooler than apples; they can be crunchy, sweet, or buttery, and with so many varieties we can find at the stores these days, there really isn’t anything they wouldn’t be great in. Salads, relishes, tarts, sweet or savory dishes, pears are extremely versatile and work in everything!
I paired them up with puff pastry and made a simple but elegant dessert. Either homemade or store-bought, I adore puff pastry, because it’s just so easy and when it puffs up high, coated with golden egg wash, it looks terrific. And I also added wine, honey, and cinnamon for a good measure. As it gets cold outside, I start going through cinnamon like crazy. It’s a wonderful warming spice and even when there is a scary wind storm or horrible downpour banging against the roof, as long as we’re warm and there is a waft of cinnamon in the air, I feel that everything is ok with the world 🙂
Pear Dumplings with Walnut – Raisin Stuffing and Honey – Wine Sauce
(4 servings; adapted from Nejlepší recepty 3/2015)
Quick Puff Pastry – makes about 500 g (1 lb.) of dough:
- 235 g (7.5 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 60 g (2 oz.) cake flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 250 g (1/2 lb.) cold unsalted butter
- 125 ml (4 oz.) iced water
For the pears:
- 300 g (10.5 oz.) puff pastry (reserve remaining pastry for later use)
- 4 smaller firm Bosc pears
- 800 ml (27 oz.) pear juice
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 50 g (2 oz.) granulated white sugar
- 50 g (2 oz.) golden brown sugar
- 1 egg yolk, beaten with 2 tablespoons milk – for egg wash
Walnut – Raisin Stuffing:
- 2/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
- ½ cup raisins
- 4 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Honey Wine Sauce:
- 125 ml (4 oz.) liquefied honey
- 5 tablespoons sweet dessert wine
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 50 ml (2 oz.) water
- 4 – 5 whole cloves
- 2 sticks cinnamon
- Make the puff pastry: Place the dry ingredients into the bowl of your food processor; pulse to combine. Cut in the cold butter and pulse until the mixture resembles large peas. Lastly add the iced water and pulse just until the dough forms a ball. Wrap and chill the dough until needed.
- Prepare the walnut – raisin filling by combining all of the ingredients together; chill until needed.
- Cook the pears: Combine pear juice, lemon juice, and sugar in a deep saucepan. Peel the pears. Remove the core, leaving the top with the stem intact. Place the pears in the syrup so they are completely submerged. Cook the pears for about 10 minutes until soft. Don’t overcook. Remove the pears from the syrup and let them cool.
- Assembling the pears: Fill the pear cavities with the walnut – raisin filling. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the chilled pastry and cut it into long thin strips. Cover the opening on the bottom of each pear with a piece of dough, and then carefully wrap the dough strips around the pears. Place the pears on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and chill while preheating the oven to 375 °F (190 °C).
- Brush the dough with egg wash and bake the pears for about 15 – 20 minutes until the dough is puffed up and golden brown.
- While the pears are baking, prepare the honey wine syrup: Combine all the ingredients together and cook until the syrup thickens.
- Serve the pears with the syrup, warm or at a room temperature.
You can also cut the cooked pears in half, fill the small cavity with stuffing and place them cut side down on the rolled out pastry, and trace the dough around them with a sharp knife, outlining the pear form. Add a small cut out leaf, brush the edges of the dough with egg wash, sprinkle with cinnamon and bake at 375 °F (190 °C) for 20 minutes.