Story last updated at 1/9/2013 - 2:21 pm
Remember those commercials and TV shows from the '60s and '70s when families gathered around the remains of a pot roast dinner and one Tiny Tim-esque voice would lyrically query, "Mother, what's for dessert?" The perfectly coiffed mother would then whip out a 14-layer chocolate cake with homemade butter cream icing and white chocolate shavings. The family would sigh with awe and wonder.
Seriously, does anyone really cook like that on a Tuesday? If so, please let me know when dinner is. I'll be right over.
Being the non-baking kind of mom, my family knows better than to ask me that. However, possessing a sweet tooth, I must confess that on the rare occasion, I too wonder what's for dessert. I love chocolate, and I personally feel chocolate is its own major food group, similar to that of cheese. However, sometimes I crave something a little different and, dare I say it? Sophisticated. Something that harkens to linen tablecloths, dimmed lighting and romantic music. Is it possible to prepare such a dish on a weekday?
Absolutely! The secret is to take advantage of prepared items in your grocery store. Frozen puff pastry, is a great example. Did you know that puff pastry has a million possibilities? It is readily available in just about any grocery store. Puff pastry is my miracle ingredient. It is easy to use, bakes in about 20 minutes and can be used for savory or sweet recipes.
For this particular recipe, we're leaning toward sweet. Considering I'm hoping to make something less than mundane, I lean toward pears. I love pears. They're sweet, juicy and for some reason have a level of sophistication that makes a recipe sound special and unique. Think about it, if you put apples in a salad, that's good. Tasty, nice crunch, something different. However, if you put pears in a salad, it is raised to the level of gourmet and epicurean.
One fine Tuesday evening I wanted such a dessert, so I rooted through the refrigerator and found both puff pastry and pears. I immediately put my culinary imagination to work.
After about 20 minutes of experimenting, tasting, adding a pinch of this and a dash of that, I created a delicious dessert, Pear Pillars. I had to give it a fancy name, right?
This week's disclaimer: using frozen puff pastry is not a crime against cooking. In fact, I have seen several chefs on various cooking shows use it. Frozen puff pastry is a wonderful time saver, easy to use and tastes great. So, have at it!
A tip about using puff pastry - let it thaw according to package directions. Before you put it in the oven, let it sit in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes. This gets the butter firm again and is what causes the "puff" in puff pastry.
I do recommend you make homemade real whipped cream. It's easy and you control the sugar. It will keep in the fridge for 1 -2 days.
This week, I present an easy-to-make, but pleasing to the pallet "all-grown-up" dessert. Pear Pillars. Oh, if you do cook like Martha Stewart, what time is dinner?
Until next time...
Eat and enjoy,
4 - 6 pears, peeled and diced
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 sheet frozen puff pastry
1 egg beaten, add splash of water
Combine pears, spices, vanilla, sugar and butter. Simmer until reduced, not too thick. You may add more sugar to your own tastes.
Thaw pastry dough according to package directions. Cut into eight small squares. Place on parchment lined baking sheet. Refrigerate about 10 minutes to re-chill. Baste with beaten egg and water mixture. Bake on 400 until golden brown, 15 - 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
With a mixer, whip cream until soft peaks, add vanilla and one tablespoon powdered sugar. Add additional sugar until desired sweetness. Whip on high until stiff peaks form.
To make pillars, layer small amount of pear mixture on bottom of plate, top with baked pastry, layer pears, and pastry, and top with whipped cream. Sprinkle with cinnamon and enjoy!
Kelly Moore, a.k.a. Midgi, writes and cooks from Juneau. Visit her blog, www.mealswithmidgi.com, for additional stories and recipes. She may be reached at midgi@ mealswithmidgi.com.