Monday, December 21, 2009

Merry Holiday (Gluten-Free) Treats for Humans & Pups

For a celiac, the holidays can be a real challenge.  Cookies and tempting treats are everywhere.  And none are usually gluten free.  These are some of the best of the best (links) from Lulu & Phoebe's gluten-free test kitchen.  These are easy to make gluten-free treats that everyone can enjoy this holiday.  Simple, pretty to look at, full fat ass, and they make great gifts.

The chocolate espresso cookies are not only quick to make, you get that high-test jolt right in each bite.  Best of both, espresso and chocolate.  But another espresso on the side doesn't hurt.

a little chocolate high test cookie with your espresso

 And who would want to be without the drunken snowflake cupcakes?  Never mind all those relatives and pesky neighbors.  Treat everyone to these and not one of you will remember that you are annoyed.

a very merry drunken snowflake cupcake

 Macaroons are the easiest thing to whip together, already gluten free, and a fantastic holiday gift.  They keep like crazy and the recipe can make an army of little delights.  Drizzle with chocolate for extra fun.  

coconut macaroons with chocolate drizzle

 My personal favorite are the gluten free black & whites.  Before celiac we used to order them from William Greenberg in NYC.  What a treat that was.  Expensive, but worth every penny.  Then we had to recreate them gluten free.  We worked on them for two years before we got it right.  The black & whites keep for a few days in a tin, but rarely do they last that long.  These are a bit more work but worth every bite.  

gluten free black & whites
For the four pawed friends we love, these woof-licious cookies are all about the crunch.  They take almost no time to prepare, but need to hang out in the oven to dry out.  Lulu and Phoebe, if they could talk, would tell you that they enjoy these cookies even more than popcorn.  And that says it all.

homemade cookie gifts for the pups

cookie taste-tester-catcher in action
From Lulu and Phoebe's gluten-free test kitchen to you - 
Happy Christmas!

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Gluten Free Rainbow Cookie Coalition

little gluten free rainbow cookies 
Early last century our newly married parents left their home in Brooklyn, and laden with important supplies from various delis and bakeries, they arrived in that wilderness called Syracuse.  When the supplies ran low, they realized only one bakery had the goods  they longed for similar to the big city fare.  Snowflake Bakery in Syracuse was an institutional wonder in an oasis of wilderness. 
A couple of decades ago, after 400 years of baking, Snowflake closed their doors, and all those goodies became just a sweet memory.
That is, until the thing called The Internet.  B&W cookies, rainbow cookies and the rugelach are there for the googling.
Rainbows are actually very easy to make.  However, they require a good deal of time and tons of patience.   Once a year, I suck it up and make the effort.
This particular recipe is gluten free.  It is a combination of other rainbow cookie recipes and techniques, with the  addition of our own enhancements.    A big shout-out to Deb at Smitten Kitchen.  And to our daughter, the inspiration for these little rainbows.
Gluten Free Rainbow Cookies
Makes about 4 thousand.  Seriously, this recipe will make about  8 dozen generous 1.5 inch square cookies.  Feel free to divide the recipe in half.  Be sure to down-size the baking pans  (I'd use 13x9)!
  • 3 jelly roll pans and/or the patience to bake one at a time.  
  • Or buy three disposable 13x9 pans (for smaller batches).
  • lots of parchment paper
  • mixer
  • offset spatula or something to apply the jelly and chocolate
  • something to strain the jam or get seedless jam
  • a large pot of coffee (to get you through the day)
  • the usual baking suspects like measuring cups et al
the cast of characters for rainbow cookies
  • 2 to 2.5  packages of (fresh) almond paste (about 16 ounces)
  • 4.25 sticks of unsalted butter
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 tspns almond extract
  • splash of vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tspns xantham gum
  • 3 cups of gluten free flour (the finest ground stuff you can find)
  • 8 eggs
  • about 25 drops of red and green food coloring (each)
  • 1.5 - 2 jars of dark red jam (seedless or you will have to strain it)
  • pinch of your favorite liquor, Godiva, Cherry or whatever smells good
  • about 12-15 ounces of really good quality bittersweet chocolate
  • optional: 2 tbspns corn syrup
Preheat oven to 350.  Prepare pans by buttering them, lining them with parchment that overhangs the pans on the short sides and butter the parchment too.  (see photo).
fitting the parchment to the pan

buttered pan, buttered parchment
Chop the almond paste if necessary.  Mix it with the sugar in a food processor to make it almost as fine as the sugar.  (see photo).  If the almond paste is older and dried a bit, it will remain lumpy.  You can see that in these cookies.  It doesn't alter the goodness.  Tastes just as good.
cutting almond paste

almond paste and sugar, processed
In a stand mixer or large bowl with a hand held mixer, whiz the butter, almond/sugar, flavorings together until fully incorporated.  Add the eggs one at a time.  Really!  One at a time.
adding eggs - one at a time
Gently whisk the flour, xantham gum, and salt in a bowl.  Add that to the wet ingredients and mix just until incorporated.  Don't overmix!
Separate the batter into three bowls - evenly.  (see photo).
dividing the layers evenly
 Add the green food coloring to one bowl and mix carefully.  Add more drops of color until you like the color.  It will bake up slightly darker so keep that in mind.  Do the same with the red color in another bowl.  Leave one bowl without color.  Don't get the spatulas near one another!

mixing the colors

 Next, using an offset spatula, spread the batter in your prepared pan, evenly.  Give it a little slam on the counter to get rid of any air bubbles.
spread it evenly
If you have room in the oven for all three pans, bake them for about 12 minutes and rotate them at about 8 minutes in.  Otherwise, bake them in the center of the oven one at a time for about 12 minutes or until that toothpick comes out clean.  They will look underdone!  Don't overbake these things.  Browning the cakes will not look great.  And if gluten free is brown, it tastes like dust.  They will look under-done, but if that toothpick is clean take them out!  Let them cool completely on a rack.
cooling after passing the toothpick test

Heat the jam until it is liquidy.  Add the liquors until it tastes and smells great.  Strain it if necessary and then cool to room temperature (but still spreadable).

heating the jam, adding the liquors

strain it really well
Using a butter knife, loosen the edge of the green cake.  Lift the parchment slightly so that it is free, but keep it in the pan.
Spread a very thin layer of jam on top (see photo).  Be careful not to make it too thick or it will ooze like crazy when you layer the cakes.  You will be trimming the edge so if it escapes down the side, no worries.
jam spread
This next step takes the patience of a saint.   Using the butter knife, loosen the edges of the layer that is not colored.  Very, very carefully pick up and line up the pan with the one that has the jam on it.  And in one movement flip the layer onto the one with the jelly - using the parchment to help you.  It may not line up correctly, so gently push it into place.
If you are using jelly roll pans this is really not easy.  If you are using the smaller 13x9 pans, you can use your hands under the parchment to help place it on the layer, or a large spatula.  It should be a bit easier to place.
Take care not to crack the layer if you can.
Once that layer is in place, use the exact same amount of jam and spread it around.  Place the last layer on top as evenly as possible (see photo).
last layer added

 The hard work is almost done!
Cover the layer with clean parchment (don't re-use any of the parchment you used for baking - see note #9).  Then wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap.   Place a large cutting board or two on top to weight it down.  Add some books to make it a serious weight.  Set aside for at least a couple of hours or more.  Overnight is even better.  No hurry.  Give it at minium two hours.  Some people refrigerate it, but not necessary.
The Final Finish
When you are ready for the final chocolate layer, take the weights off and unwrap the cake.
Break up the chocolate and melt it in a double boiler over barely warm heat, stirring it up once in a while.  When it is almost all melted turn off the heat and let it finish melting. Stir in the corn syrup.   Remove the bowl or the top of the double boiler, carefully to avoid getting any of the steam near the chocolate which can make it seize.   Let the chocolate cool off until it is like a cool thick syrup.
Meantime - trim the edges of the cake with a serrated knife - about a quarter inch on the edges until it has an even clean edge.
Drizzle half the chocolate over the top and spread with an offset spatula.  Try not to drizzle it off the sides, but if you do, don't worry.  Trim the edges and eat those pieces yourself!

looking amazingly neat before slicing

Place it in the refrigerator for a few minutes to set the chocoalte - about 15 minutes should do it.  You are going to flip it to coat the other side, so you want the chocolate to be totally set.
Place a piece of clean parchment on a large baking sheet.  Place that on top of the chocolate coated side and in one movement, grab the whole thing and flip it over.  Now you should have the uncoated side with the original parchment attached to it on the top side.
Peel off that parchment.  Drizzle the remaining chocolate on that side (reheated gently if it got too hard) and using the offset spatula, spread to the edges.   Refrigerate until hard, or leave it out to set as well.  It just takes longer, but it will set.  (see note #9 again)
a little drippy jam

Cutting the cookies is another exercise in patience.  The hard chocolate will crack if you use a regular knife.  You have to use a serrated knife or a very small, very sharp knife.
To get around this frustration - a couple of things.  You could cut it before the chocolate is totally hard - wait for it to set, but not harden.
Or, you could freeze it and cut it while frozen which some say works better.
You could also cut it into long strips after the weights come off and set them on a rack and top with chocolate that way.  Then you need only cut them into squares by cutting the long strip rather than the whole thing.
You could also try a long skinny knife, dipped in hot water before each cut.
Someone else mentioned cutting it with a tiny sharp knife to avoid cracking the chocolate.
In the end, it doesn't matter - as long as you like how they look.  They will taste so good no one will mind a little crack here and there.
 The cookies taste better the longer they sit around.  Think about making them ahead of when you will need them by at least a couple of days.  They freeze well, too.  They cookies will last about a week in a tin.

looking like little rainbows

  1. Some recipes call for separating the eggs, whipping the whites and incorporating them into the batter.  That does lighten the batter a bit.  However, when stirring in the coloring, it really does defeat all that egg-white-whipping and folding.  Having had them using both techniques, it really doesn't seem to matter.  But feel free if you wish.  Fold the whites in after you mix in the flour.  
  2. People wonder about the pan size.  The only rule to remember is that you want them to finish in even size heights.  You are stacking three cakes together to make a rather petite cookie, so keep that in mind.  Think of it as a jelly roll kind of cake.  Very thin - so that is why you have to use the toothpick test and almost underbake them.  They will be done, but will still be moist.  Just make the layers as evenly as possible.  The green layer in these is a little higher than the others (see photos).
  3. Some recipes call for apricot jam.  Having grown up with the raspberry or red jam version, we would never use apricot.  But it is a personal choice.  Use what makes you happy.  Just make sure there are no lumps or seeds in the jam.  And be sure to add the liqours.  It deepens the flavor.  Fruit spread is fine too, just make sure to heat it enough to get it to thicken a bit.  Some recipes also use a slightly thinner jam coating on the final layer right under the chocolate.  If you do that, be sure to let it soak all the way in to the cake before applying the chocolate, or the topping might fall off.
  4. The chocolate is going to work perfectly or it will be a pain in the rear.  Always buy extra just in case you ruin a batch.  Melt it gently over the water bath and don't allow any steam to escape or it will seize.   The second problem is heating it too much - it will turn grainy and sludgy.  And adding the corn syrup helps give it shine, and a pliability that you will want for spreading and cutting.  Add the corn syrup at the end only.  If you only use melted chocolate, you are actually tempering it while you melt it.  The result will be a snappy shiny chocolate coating that is guaranteed to crack wherever you cut.  
  5. If for some reason you end up with that snappy chocolate (like these in the photos) try a variety of knives to cut it.  The serrated should have worked best, but it cracked the chocolate.  The long thin knife dipped in hot water should have done the trick, but it just made it worse.  What worked was a little tiny very sharp paring knife and you can still see where it cracked in the photos.  
  6. Use the best chocolate you can afford.  Bittersweet is a nice flavor against the uber sweetness of the marzipan.   But most recipes call for semisweet and that works just as well.  Your choice.  But remember to have some extra on hand in case you need more, or wrecked the first batch. Been there, several times.
  7. And - many recipes call for chocolate coating on only one side.  Feel free to do that.  It saves you money, time and grief.  You don't have to melt as much.  You don't have to flip the whole thing.  And less opportunity for the chocolate to crack.  
  8. To make the recipe not gluten free, skip the xantham gum, use the equvilant amount of all purpose flour, and skip an egg.
  9. The reason not to re-use the parchment?  You buttered it.   The greased parchment side acts as a seal and the chocolate can (and probably will) just lay there, not sticking to the cake layer.  So, even though the parchment you are peeling off the layers as you stack them seems re-usable, don't do it!  You'll regret it.  I know I did!  Yes, I did that and the chocolate on one side doesn't stick to the cake.  This is the bottom side of the original layer that I left in the pan - you can skip coating this side and save yourself  some grief.  But always use clean parchment without any grease for covering that final layer before you stack the boards and books on it!  Clean parchment!
Bon Appetit!  And by the time you finish, it will be time for a glass of wine rather than a pot of coffee.  Go for it.  You deserve it after all that work!

cookies with a glass of wine?

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Flan That Would Be Pumpkin

pumpkin flan with gluten free crust

naked pumpkin flan

If you still have pumpkin or ran to the store and bought out the dwindling supply, this recipe is for you. Pumpkin flan in a pate brisee crust, topped with a little cream fraiche or whipped cream will make your guests think you are Martha Stewart.

Oh, yeah. This is Martha's recipe. Sort of. Since it was made in the L&P gluten free test kitchen, it has, shall we say, been modified to meet gluten free standards and enhanced slightly. In addition, since it is a MS recipe, we sought to simplify wherever we could.

First, begin by making a pot of high test French Roast coffee. You will need it. Second, make sure you begin a couple of days before you want to serve the dessert. It tastes better the second and third day. It was not so good the first day.

You could get a gluten free (or regular) pie crust mix at the store. That is a great alternative to save you time.

But if you are a whiz at the pie crusts, you know these crusts are simple to make and don't take much time at all.

Just remember - the flan needs to be a little bit smaller in diameter than than the pastry crust.

The hardest task was the making the caramel. It goes from perfect to hard candy in a flash. Be careful. And no, the hard candy stage will not get you the caramel you need for the flan finish.

Just have patience and learn from our mistakes. The caramel is easy. It is simply water and sugar boiled gently on really low heat until the color is perfect. Martha said to make it a nice deep amber color. Don't!

It will be hard candy in about 5 seconds after it turns amber. Just get it to that light blond stage and by the time you pour it, the color will be perfect. And it will pour! Hard candy doesn't pour. My first batch made it to the ramekins and then became a hard shell.

The flan is flavored with real ginger - so beware. If you enjoy the sharp taste of ginger, by all means, use the recommended dose. But if you want a subtle taste of ginger, dial the portion back a touch.

And last, be sure to follow the directions to strain the flan into the ramekins unless you enjoy little stringy bits of ginger and pumpkin. It makes a difference. And don't press too much on the strained stuff or you will push through some things you don't want in there - speaking from experience.

And the biggest advice of all: Don't serve it with the pate brisee if you don't want to bother making the crusts. It is perfectly pretty and tasty all on its own. The pastry crust is fun, but really, it is the kind of thing we expect from Martha, a little over the top.

We made it so you don't have to - but you might want to. It is really good. But then again, I was dreaming of Smitten Kitchen's chocolate pudding pie as I was making the crusts. That should tell you something.

Pumpkin Flan in a Gluten Free Pate Brisee Crust

Ingredients for Caramel Sauce

  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup filtered water

Directions for Caramel Sauce

make sure the sugar and water dissolve

In a small saucepan with high sides, heat the sugar and water gently till disolved. Don't stir it at all. Just swirl the pan with the handle. Have a glass of cold water and a pastry brush nearby. Once the sugar is dissolved, heat to a gentle low-heat boil, keeping it simmering at the lowest heat possible. Use the cold water/brush to brush down the sugar crystals that form on the side of the pan once in a while. Swish the saucepan once in a while. Do not let it get to the deep amber color Martha suggests. Light blonde is good.

once it dissolves gently boil it

As soon as it is the right color, set the pan in cold water for a second - be really careful - boiling sugar is hot and can burn. It will sizzle like crazy when it hits the cold water. Immediately pour the caramel into the bottoms of 6-8 shallow ramekins about 4 inches in diameter. Don't worry about the size so much - just divide the caramel evenly. Let it cool on the counter while you prepare the flan.

this would be the perfect color

If you did this right, the caramel is runny. If you did it almost right, the caramel might be slightly hard, but still gooey. That will work too. The only instance where you need to begin again is if the caramel is hard as a rock. It won't make that nice runny stuff when you flip it and will stay in the ramekin. Do it over.

this is the do-over color, sigh

Ingredients: Flan

cast of characters pumpkin flan
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups of whole milk
  • 12 ounces canned pumpkin (not pie mix)
  • 1 tspn grated fresh ginger root (MS uses 2 tspns)
  • 1 tspn cinnamon (MS uses 1/2 tspn)
  • 1/4 tspn freshly grated nutmeg
  • pinch salt
  • 5 large eggs plus two large yolks
  • 2 tspns vanilla

Directions Flan

flan ramekins in roasting pan

Preheat oven to 325. Place the ramekins in a roasting pan. Bring the milk just to a light boil on the stove. In the meantime mix the remaining ingredients until well incorporated. Temper the mixture by adding the hot milk slowly and stirring at the same time. Whisk it all together. Using a fine strainer, pour the flan over the caramel, into the ramekins filling about 2/3 full.

before the boiling milk, the flan ingredients
tempering the mixture should get you this

Place the pan in the oven and carefully add hot water until it is halfway up the sides of the ramekins in the roasting pan. Place a sheet of foil over the top - it doesn't have to be a tight fit at all - just covering it is fine.

in the oven, with a water bath

Bake for almost an hour or until a knife comes out clean from the center. It can take a little less than an hour. Over cooked flan looks a bit grainy and crumbly. So keep a watch out. Once you've done it successfully you will know when to fetch it from the oven. The first time is always the hardest.

Let them cool in the bath until they are room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for the next day.

just done - wait until tomorrow

Ingredients Pate Brisee

  • 1.5 cups of gluten free flour
  • 1 tspn xantham gum
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tspn white sugar
  • 9-10 tablespoons of ice cold unsalted butter cut into tiny pieces
  • filtered ice water

Directions Pate Brisee

Measure the dry ingredients into a food processor. If you are using a bowl, do the same. Drop the butter bits into the flour mixture in the processor or a bowl. For the processor: Pulse it until the mixture looks like cornmeal. For a bowl, using a fork or pastry blender tool, mix in the flour until it looks like cornmeal.

whiz this until it looks like cornmeal

Add about 1/4 cup of ice water all at once. In the processor, pulse until it just comes away from the sides into a ball. Add more ice water to get there if needed. In the bowl, add the ice water and work it in until it just starts to turn into a solid ball.

ready to come away from the sides, perfect

Grab the ball of dough and divide it evenly in half, and then again in half again until you have four to eight even-sized pieces. Gluten free pie dough does not roll easily. Since you filling 5-inch tart pans, smack the dough into the pan and work it up the sides until it is nice and thin and evenly done. The dough will be quite soft by now.

You want to bake it when the butter is very cold, so refrigerate the tart pans on a cookie sheet for at least 30 minutes or longer. You can leave them overnight if you like. They freeze well too.

chilled, ready to bake

Take them from the refrigerator or directly from the freezer and bake at 325 degrees for about 25 minutes or just until they look very lightly brown. GF pie dough never browns like regular pie crusts - so don't worry if they are light color. They are supposed to be that way.

Let them cool completely at room temperature.

toasted blonde, not browned

Assembling the Tarts

Take the flans out to come to about room temperature before serving. Run a butter knife around the edges a few times. Take the tart dough and remove the tin if you can. If not, don't worry about it. Put the tart shell upside down on the ramekin and securely holding it so it doesn't shatter, flip the whole thing quickly and remove the ramekin.

Once you've done this, the rest will be easy. I always make an extra so if I break it, or screw it up, it doesn't matter. The first is the hardest.

Serve with whipped cream or cream fraiche.

Or serve the flan naked and skip the tart shell. Both ways are great.

Happy Thanksgiving and Bon Appetit

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pumpkin Who? Thanksgiving Ginger Cake & Poached Pears

Thanksgiving Gluten Free Ginger Cake & Poached Pears

Watch out, pumpkin pie.

This year, Thanksgiving is not just about that orange gourd-like squash. It will be all about another knobby little tuber called ginger root.

This gluten-free ginger cake with poached pears takes a little bit of time to prepare. It is one of those wonderful desserts that looks complicated, but is not. You can make the whole creation ahead of time and plate it at the last minute. While everyone else is eating that orange colored pie, your guests will be impressed with a dessert that will not only make them swoon, it'll help digest that ginormous Thanksgiving meal. Ginger is a great thing to eat after a huge dinner.

The original recipe comes from Fine Cooking Magazine, in an article from the husband and wife team of Nancy Oakes and Bruce Aidells. He, of sausage fame, and she, of Boulavard Restaurant fame. The modifications and enhancements come from the L&P gluten-free test kitchen.

Set aside a couple of hours to prepare this. A day or so before the holiday is fine. You can refrigerate the poached pears and sauce separately. The cake can be stored under a glass dome, or wrap it up in foil after it is completely cold and store it in the refrigerator too. Just make sure to take all the ingredients out the day you wish to serve it so that they come to room temperature. You can heat the sauce if you like it warm. It tastes great warm or at room temperature.

No one will guess that the dessert is gluten-free. The crumb looks like any other cake, and the ginger, molasses flavoring will make everyone swoon. The secret ingredient for the cake and sauce cannot be understated. It is key to the final flavor. And no one will ever know that it started as a bottle of artistan root beer. Many thanks to Bruce Aidells and Nancy Oakes for adding this crazy ingredient - who knew a bottle of root beer could be this versatile?!

Gluten Free Ginger Cake & Poached Pear
& Sauce with Whipped Cream

cast of characters

Ingredients: Cake

  • 2 scant cups gluten free flour (lightly filled)
  • 1 teaspoon xantham gum
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon ginger root powder (make sure it is a new jar)
  • 1.5 teaspoons cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 scant cup veggie oil (not olive)
  • 3 large eggs or 2 jumbo eggs
  • 1/4 cup dark molasses
  • 1.5 cups of dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup of the best crafty root beer you can find

Cake Directions

Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9 inch square baking pan with straight sides. Dust with granulated white sugar. Set the prepared pan aside.

buttered and sprinkled with sugar

Mix flour, salt, spices, xantham gum together in a large bowl. Thoroughly mix eggs, oil and molasses in a smaller bowl and whisk until completely incorporated.

gluten free flour & spices

molasses, eggs & oil do mix, eventually

In a small saucepan mix well, and heat to boiling, the root beer and brown sugar. Be careful. Boiling sugar is hot!

brown sugar & foamy root beer

Meantime, pour the molasses mixture into the larger bowl with the flour et al. Mix with a wooden spoon. If you use a whisk (like I did) it will get stuck.

Once the rootbeer/brown sugar mixture is boiling, pour it into the larger bowl and this time using a whisk, make sure it is all incorporated. It will be very liquidy and may bubble up some. Just keep stirring until it feels incorporated.

pour and whisk carefully - tis hot

Quickly pour (yes, it pours like liquid) into the prepared pan and place immediately into the oven.

really liquidy batter into the oven

Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes and then turn the oven down to 325 and continue to bake for about 15 minutes more or until a toothpick comes out clean. It can still look under-done but as soon as the toothpick comes out clean, take the cake out and set it on a rack to cool, still in the pan. Gluten free batters should bake at a lower temperature.

center looks gooey, but toothpick is clean, so it's done

Take a butter knife and drag it around the edges after about ten minutes just to loosen the edge of the cake, but leave it in the pan to cool for about 30 minutes. Take the rack and place it on top of the cake and flip it out of the pan. You may have to tap the bottom of the pan with a butter knife to convince it to come out, but it will. Be patient.

Quickly place your cake plate on top of the flipped cake and holding the rack and the plate, flip it over so the top is up again. I used a glass cake plate that has a dome. You can use anything you want but be sure to anticipate how you will be wrapping up the cake to store when you plate it. Once is on the plate you will not able to get it off - you have to cut the pieces from there to plate the servings.

nice crusty sugary edges

Poached Pears

This is the fun part. The hardest part about poaching is peeling and coring the fruit. We used baby bosc pears from the Farmer's Market. You can use Bosc Pears from anywhere, big or small. They both take about the same amount of time to poach.

Ingredients: Poached Pears

Allow 1/2 pear per serving

  • 4 large firm, but ripe bosc pears or 6 small ones
  • 3-4 bottles of the same great root beer
  • peel from 1.5 small lemons or one large one (not the pith)
  • 1/2 whole vanilla bean

Directions: Poached Pears

Peel pears, leaving stems intact if you can. Cut in half and core carefully. Use a tiny melon ball instrument if you can. Makes quick work of the core.

Pour root beer into a flat bottomed saucepan large enough to hold the pear halves laying down. Use enough root beer to cover the pears completely. Drop in large lemon peels and the vanilla bean.

Bring to a simmer and poach on low heat, so that the liquid slightly simmers. Don't cover the pan. Poach until the pears are soft, but still firm enough to keep their shape. It can take anywhere from 20 minutes to 40 minutes. Just keep checking back.

prepared pears, lemon peel, vanilla poaching in root beer

Once the pears are done, remove them with a slotted spatula or spoon to a container that you can close and refrigerate if you are not serving them immediately. Let them cool completely before storing.

little poached pears cooling off

Meantime, turn the heat up a little and gently boil the liquid until it reduces to a syrupy consistency. It takes about 15 minutes. Watch it carefully at the end because it can evaporate and burn. I like to take it off the heat a tiny bit before it turns thick. It continues to thicken up even off the heat. Immediately strain our the lemon peel and vanilla bean, and pour into a container or a pitcher and let it cool to room temperature before storing.

this ended up being about 1.5 cups when finished

Whipped Cream

Buy a can or make it at home. If you whip it at home, add a touch of sugar and little bit of vanilla.


Cut the cake into even sized pieces. Place the cake on a plate off-center a touch.

Take a pear half (we used two small halves for each serving just because we are piggies). And place it stem side up leaning on the cake.

Pour or spoon a little bit of the warmed or room temperature syrup over the cake and the pear. It will pool at the base of the cake. You want enough for each serving to have a tiny pool at the cake base.

Plop a little bit of whipped cream on top of each piece of cake. Garnish with mint leaves or candied ginger peel if you wish.

Serve and watch them swoon.

pumpkin, who?