Ugh, February has come to an end at unseasonably warm temperatures, much to the delight of the carnival-revelers and much to my season-confusion-induced dismay. This year’s first bee buzzed by my window today, for crying out loud… anyways, the rising temperatures piqued my tummies’ interest in ice cream, but with nothing along the lines of berries – or anything else remotely close to the “summer” aromas I was looking for, for that matter – available yet, I had to rummage through my head and fridge for a bit to mentally bridge the gap between a summery icy delight and the MIA winter weather.
The ingredient-hunt was cut delightfully short when a convenient pear presented itself to me beneath the apples in my fridge and gave me the perfect opportunity to whip up one of our favorite remedies to the odd ice-cream-in-the-middle-of-winter-cravings.
The Spiced Pears
200g unrefined Sugar
100ml White Port
1 Star Anise
½ Cinnamon Stick
1/4 Vanilla Pod
1 Green Cardamom Pod
4 large, ripe Comice Pears – 550g after peeling and coring them
1) Peel, core, quarter and dice the pears. Discard the core and stringy bits but keep the peels for the syrup.
2) Set a pot large enough to accommodate the pears onto medium heat, pour in the water and port and slowly dissolve the sugar in the liquids as they’re warming up.
3) Once the grains are thoroughly poofed, add the spices and pear peels.
4) Turn the heat up to high and bring the mixture to a rapid boil.
5) Leave the syrup to bubble away for 5 mins, then turn the heat down to low.
6) Strain the mixture through a sieve to remove all of the swimmers and transfer the syrup back into the pot.
7) Gently add the pear cubes and poach them in the hot syrup for 10 min. Have a test-bite once that’s done and, if necessary, keep the pears in a bit longer in case they weren’t perfectly ripe. No matter how unripe they were though, don’t try to cut the poaching-time short by letting the syrup bubble up again, the pears would simply fall apart in the boiling liquid. If it takes a bit more time… well, you can’t rush a yummy ice cream~!
8) Once the pears are deliciously tender and juicy, strain them through a fine sieve and catch the syrup in a bowl.
9) Spread out the pears inside the sieve a little to help them steam off a bit faster.
10) This syrup is an absolutely yumtastic side product that would be a shame to waste – actually, I have a dessert waiting for you next month using this very syrup as a main ingredient! So, catch the liquids as you’re straining off the pears, pour it back into the pot, bring it to a boil and, once it’s bubbled for 2-3 mins, transfer it to a sterilized jam jar or sealable bottle of sorts. It’ll keep for several months and, aside from the aforementioned dessert, opens up many doors for a pear’y touch to desserts, ice creams or drinks~
11) Move the pears to the jug of a blender or a stick-blender friendly container and blitz them into a very smooth purée.
12) Set the bowl aside to cool off further and take care of the other components in the meantime.
The Ice Cream Base
50ml Pear Syrup – see above~
150g Extra Fine Caster Sugar
6 Medium-sized Eggyolks – set 3 egg whites aside for the meringue
1) Place a heavy-based pot on medium heat.
2) Add the sugar, syrup and water, and bring the liquids to a gentle simmer. Stir every once in a while to keep the grains from sticking to the pot.
3) As soon as the sugar has dissolved completely, turn the heat up to medium-high and bring the syrup to a rapid boil.
4) Once it’s bubbling away, let it go wild for 5-7 mins until it starts turning its color to a light caramel around the edges.
5) Meanwhile, place the eggyolks in a heatproof mixing bowl.
6) Use a handheld whirr-o-matic to beat the yolks into a pale yellow and glossy fluff.
7) For an accurate, candy-thermometer-free way of determinating the progress of the syrup, listen to it. The syrup is ready once the bubbles bursting on the surface of the boiling mixture change their merry tune to a thick, wet popping sound.
8) Set the electric beaters to medium-high speed and carefully add the piping hot syrup to the eggs in a steady stream. Try not to pour the syrup directly onto your whisks to avoid hot splashes flying your way while being extra fast and thorough with the task at hand – if you don’t distribute the incoming syrup immediately, the egg-mixture will boil and set into an omelet rather than the pale yellow and creamy fluff you’re looking for.
9) Once you’ve added the last trickle of syrup, turn the speed of your whisks up to their maximum and have at it until the mixture noticably increases in volume and turns into a thick and glossy foam.
10) Set the base aside to cool down to room temperature and move on to the meringue base.
3 Egg Whites
A few Drops of Lemon Juice
100g Extra Fine Caster Sugar
150ml Whipping Cream, thoroughly chilled through
1) Place the whites and the lemon juice in a wide mixing bowl and beat them into a thick foam with your electrical whisks.
2) Add the sugar in a slow stream as you go and keep beating the mixture until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture turns into a firm and glossy meringue.
3) Pick up yet another bowl, pour in the chilled cream and beat the cream up into soft peaks.
Assembling the Parfait
1) Fold the pear puree into the egg yolk mixture with a rubber spatula.
2) Once the two are well combined, carefully fold the resulting mixture into the meringue – go down the slow-and-steady road with this to avoid breaking up the frothy texture you’ve just beaten into everything.
3) Repeat the slow-and-gentle proceedings with the cream, folding it into the pear-egg-meringue mixture.
4) Line a 25cm long loaf tin with a double layer of clingfilm.
5) Slowly pour the proto-parfait into the tin, place it in the fridge and freeze it for at least 8 hours or overnight.
6) Take the tin out of the freezer and place it in the fridge about 10 mins before slicing or scooping the parfait into dessert-worthy portions of yum waiting to be dolled up.
Phew, quite the stack of dirty bowls to clean up, but believe me… so worth it~! Served with fresh pears, a trickle of the poaching-syrup or a bit of chocolate in some form or another, this parfait is a truly happy-tummy winter treat. The syrup leftovers are just the icing on the cake! Remember to hide some of it until next month’s sweet-treat recipe~!
Oh, but here’s a thought… how about a Spiced Pear Bellini to go with the parfait~? Add 1 Tbsp of the syrup to a glass of Cremant or Prosecco, lightly stir, cheers!