Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Poached Pear, Yogurt Panna Cotta and Candied Walnuts

New year. New resolution. I need to update this space less sporadically. Can't believe that I only posted once last year! Weekly update is too much of a project for me. Monthly post seems doable, perhaps, maybe. I'm never good at keeping resolutions. I plan to share more savory recipes and explore some healthier sweets and cakes this year. So stay tune, people, or whoever patient enough to still check this space even after my singular post last year. For that, I thank you.

Let's kick start the year with this rather understated, almost boring, but amazingly flavorsome and refreshing dessert.

Poached fruit was never my thing. Not something I would order in a restaurant or thought worth the effort to make at home. That was, until recently, I had poached pear for the first time.

It was in a restaurant opened only a few months ago. We heard great reviews and thought we should check it out. We had their nine course meal special which did not come with dessert. It is strange, I thought, that a multi-course tasting menu does not include a dessert. The food was delicious but we were desperate for something sweet. We were told that there was no dessert menu. Only poached pears if we want it. Disappointed and almost reluctantly, we said yes to the poached pear.

The restaurant serves the poached pear with a spoonful of greek yogurt, a broken up walnut biscuit, complete with drizzle of poached pear syrup. I'm not going to lie, it sounds as unimpressive as it looks. But the moment I had my first taste of the poached pear, all is forgiven. The pear perfectly poached, infused with the subtle hint of spices, still firm but soft enough to eat with a fork, sweet but not overly so. The greek yogurt adds creaminess and tartness. The walnut biscuit adds the crunch element that this dessert needs. And not forgetting the poached pear syrup that ties everything together.

This is my glam up version of the dessert. Yogurt panna cotta instead of just plain old yogurt. Candied walnut slightly salted with a sprinkle of sea salt instead of boring walnut biscuit.

This is now one of my top favourite desserts. The sweet spiced poached pear, the wobbly creamy yogurt panna cotta, the additive sweet and salty candied walnuts. The perfect summer dessert. I'm happy to eat this for breakfast too.

Each element can be make days in advance. Tips to store them in recipe below.

Poached Pear, Yogurt Panna Cotta and Candied Walnuts

Serves 8

Poached Pears
5 small pears (I used packham pear)
500 grams caster sugar
1 litre water
1 cinnamon stick
About 1/4 teaspoon of finely grated nutmeg

To make poached pears:
Make cartouche by cutting a round piece of baking paper with diameter slightly bigger than the saucepan that you are using. This will be used during poaching to cover the surface of the poaching syrup and ensure all the pears stay completely submerged.

Peel pears, and use a melon scoop to remove the core of the pears from the base.

Choose a saucepan that will accommodate all the pears. Combine caster sugar, water, cinnamon and nutmeg in the pan and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to a simmer.

Add the pears to the simmering poaching syrup and cover the surface of the syrup with the cartouche. Place a plate on top to ensure the pears stay submerged.

Gently poach for about 15 minutes or until you can easily pierce the flesh with the tip of the knife. Remove from heat and allow the pears to cool completely in the syrup, covered with the cartouche.

Transfer the pears to a storing container, make sure they are completely submerged in the syrup, covered with the cartouche, and close lid of the storing container. Refrigerate until needed. The pears will keep in the fridge for up to 1 week and best served cold.

Reserve a cup of the poaching syrup, return the syrup to saucepan, boil for 10 minutes or until syrup is reduced by half. Once cool, store syrup in a jar until needed.

- This is best make at least a day before serving to allow the spice to completely infused.
- Choose pears that is in between hard and ripe. Ripe pear will become too mushy when poached. While hard pear will stay hard.
- To prevent pears from browning, squeeze lemon juice over each pear or soak pears in slightly salted water.

Yogurt Panna Cotta
4 gold strength gelatine sheets (2 grams per sheet)
250 ml pouring cream
250 ml milk
50 grams caster sugar
1 vanilla beans, halved and seeds scraped
400 grams greek yogurt (sugar free, unflavoured and full fat)

To make yogurt panna cotta:
Soak gelatine sheets in cold water until softened.

Meanwhile, combine cream, milk, sugar, vanilla bean and seeds in a small saucepan. Stir over medium heat, and when mixture just starts to simmer, remove from heat.

Squeeze the excess water from the gelatin and stir the gelatine into the warm mixture until dissolves.

Add yoghurt to the mixture and stir until well combine. Strain mixture into dariole moulds.

Refrigerate for 4 hours or preferably overnight. The panna cotta will keep in the fridge for up to 1 week.

To turn out the panna cottas, dip each mould into very hot water and give it a little shake. Turn the mould upside down onto a plate and shake gently to dislodge.

Candied Walnuts 
1 cup walnuts
1/4 cup caster sugar
25 grams unsalted butter
Generous pinch of sea salt

To make candied walnuts: 

Place walnuts, caster sugar and butter in a non-stick fry pan over medium heat, stirring frequently until the sugar mixture starts to melt and coat all the nuts. Once the sugar mixture starts to caramerlise and the nuts start to take on a deep golden colour, transfer immediately onto a baking paper and quickly separate all the nuts with a spoon or spatula. It will be scorching hot so don't be tempted to touch the nuts with your bare hands. Sprinkle nuts with generous pinch of sea salt. Allow to cool completely before storing in an air tight container. Do not refrigerate!

To assemble:
Place panna cotta on the centre of a bowl, place half a pear on the side, drizzle with the reduced poaching syrup and top with a couple of candied walnuts. Enjoy.

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