holidays & recipes: caramel coated seckel pears
Everyone is very accustomed to baked desserts for the holidays. Usually we are sufficiently full by the time we finish our Christmas dinner. But, we always crave that special holiday dessert, no matter how heavy it may be. Of course you’ll want to make your family’s traditional favorite, but when preparing the menu for an elegant Christmas dinner, you may wish to try something new and probably unexpected. But, it will be a refreshing, warm, delicious alternative to the heavy baked desserts.
Caramel coated seckel pears are the perfect ending to a sophisticated dinner. They are rich in flavor yet light enough to eat after a delicious meal. They are the perfect balance of spice and sweetness. They are light enough to eat two or three without guilt. The white wine, cinnamon and cloves compliment the natural sweetness of the pears incredibly well. The caramel coating, with the extra drizzle of caramel on top will make your guests think you have taken a cooking class or two. And, best of all, they are inexpensive to make.
For the photos we played a little with the caramel, swirling it over parchment paper in a very abstract way, with no real rhyme or reason. It is fun to play with the thickening caramel and it will look stunning when placed around the pears. It adds that extra special touch and while we know it isn’t difficult, your guests will think you spent hours creating this dessert. It can be our little secret.
An Elegant Christmas Dinner Menu
Caramel Coated Seckel Pears (Martha Stewarts Holiday book)
1 bottle dry white wine
3 cups sugar
1 cinnamon stick
16 seckel pears
½ cup water
1. Combine wine, 1 cup of the sugar, 1 lemon half and the spices in a medium saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes.
2. Carefully peel the pears, leaving the stems attached. Sprinkle with the juice of the remaining half of the lemon. Add pears to the poaching liquid and bring to a bare simmer.
3. Cover pears with a lid slightly smaller than the pot to keep them submerged. Cook for 10 to 30 minutes, depending on size and ripeness of pears, or until tender and translucent. Rearrange pears once or twice to ensure even cooking. Cool pears in poaching liquid. Refrigerate (in poaching liquid) overnight.
4. Remove pears from the liquid, discarding liquid and drain on paper towels. Dry pears as much as possible and set aside.
5. Combine the remaining 2 cups sugar and water in a medium heavy saucepan over low heat. Stir occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Cover pan and bring to a boil. Leave cover on until condensation washes down the insides of the pan. Set a pan of cold water near stove. Turn heat to medium high and boil syrup, without stirring, until it becomes deep amber. Carefully plunge bottom of pot into a pan of cold water to stop the cooking.
6. Holding each pear by the stem, carefully dip in hot caramel and set on a lightly oiled or parchment covered baking sheet. When pears have been dipped, drizzle remaining caramel over tops. Let cool. Serve within 30 minutes. (Caramel will start to ooze off the pears. No matter how well you dry them, the moisture from the pears will cause the caramel to loosen.)