Friday, November 4, 2011

Gingerbread Shortcake with Pears

Fall is definitely in the air. It’s time to turn the corner and begin to focus on the flavors and spices of the new season. The weather will bring a crisp chill, the leaves will rustle and soon we’ll be turning back the clock. The moment has arrived for apples and pears, quince, lots of spice and chocolate.

This is a scone/shortcake recipe from Cindy Mushet that is reminiscent of a light gingerbread. It has a different texture but features the same sort of warm mixture of spices and a small dose of heady molasses. The food processor does all the work, so there is minimal handling and then a quick 14 minute bake in the oven.

I serve them here with pears and whipped cream but they’d also be really fabulous with some apples sautéed in a bit of butter, sugar and a pinch of cinnamon. The aromas and flavors are perfect for this time of year.

Bench notes:
- Unless you really love cloves, I recommend reducing the amount of ground cloves, which can really overpower other spices. The recipe calls for 1/2 t and I’d probably reduce by half from 1/2 t to 1/4 t and also increase the cinnamon to 1 3/4 t. Maybe add a little pinch of nutmeg.
- Once the dough is mixed in the food processor, handle it very little to ensure tenderness. Gather it together on your work surface and gently press it to form a cohesive circle, making sure the edges of the circle are firm.
- I used Bartlett pears. D'Anjou would also be nice.
- For a richer dessert, Cindy Mushet includes a recipe in her book for Cider Sabayon made with Calvados to use in place of whipped cream.
- These shortcakes would probably be great with sautéed bananas or a plum compote.
- It's very easy to over whip heavy cream. As it begins to thicken, stop every few seconds and check for a very soft peak.
- Dress up the whipped cream with a little splash of brandy or rum.
- Serve these as breakfast or brunch scones with a delicious pumpkin or apple butter, pear or raspberry jam.
- Shortcakes and scones should be eaten the same day.

Gingerbread Shortcake with Pears

adapted from The Art and Soul of Baking by Sur La Table with Cindy Mushet
Makes 8 shortcakes

Poached Pears

3 ripe but firm pears
2 1/2 C water
1 C sugar
1 t fresh lemon juice
1/4 vanilla bean, split and seeded

Gingerbread Shortcakes

2 C flour
2 1/2 t ground ginger
1 1/2 t ground cinnamon [I recommend 1 3/4 t]
1/2 t ground cloves [I recommend 1/4 t]
1/3 C brown sugar, firmly packed
1 3/4 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
4 oz (1 stick) cold butter, cut into 1/2” cubes
1/2 C + 2 T (5 oz) cold buttermilk
2 T molasses

1 egg, lightly beaten
2 t water
3 T turbinado or Hawaiian washed raw sugar

1 C cold heavy cream
2 t sugar, to taste
1/2 t vanilla

To poach the pears, bring the water, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla bean to a low simmer. Peel and core the pears. Cut them into 1/4" slices, placing in the poaching liquid as you go. Simmer for about 10 - 15 minutes until tender. Remove from heat and cool completely.

For the shortcakes, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.

Place the flour, spices, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process for 10 seconds to blend. Add the cold butter pieces and pulse about 5 times or until the butter is cut into smaller pieces. Combine the buttermilk with the molasses, add and pulse just until the dough starts to hold together in large, thick clumps. The mixture will look a bit like dark lumpy cottage cheese. Pour the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gather the dough and gently pat together into a circle about 7” in diameter and about 1” thick. Cut the dough into 8 equal wedges and transfer to the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2” apart.

Beat the egg with 2 teaspoons of water. Brush the tops of the shortcakes with a thin coating of the egg wash (you will not use all of it). Sprinkle generously with turbinado or raw sugar and press it gently to secure.

Bake for 14 to 15 minutes, until firm to the touch and golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack.

Whip the cream, sugar and vanilla just until very soft peaks form.

Gently slice the shortcakes in half with a serrated knife. Place a dollop of cream on the bottom half and layer some pears. Drizzle with the poaching liquid and top with the other shortcake half. Serve immediately.


Elly McCausland said...

I love the sprinkling of sugar on top of these; they look so crunchy and delicious. I've never thought of pairing scones/shortcake with poached fruit, though I do love the scone topping of a cobbler, so I suppose it makes sense. I can only imagine how good the ginger tastes with the pears.

The Food Hunter said...

I've been in a pear mood lately...these will work nicely.

Sharon T said...

These look so good. I'm thinking they would be good with some sauteed apples and the pumpkin butter I just made. However my oven is broken :( so they will have to wait in the growing stack of recipes to try out. Thank you!

Sujata Varadarajan (Sujata Malhan) said...

A slightly unrelated comment, would you have a good recipe for apple/pumpkin butter? I am writing from India and this is the apple season here, pumpkins are always plentiful and this is the first time I am hearing about pumpkin butter.

pastry studio said...

Howdy, everyone and thanks for your interest in this dessert. Sharon, it must be a trial to have a busted oven!

Sujata, fruit butters are pretty simple. It just involves slowly cooking fruit down to a puree, adding some sort of sweetener and spices if you wish. I haven't made pumpkin butter, but here is one from a great blog that looks very good:

For apple butter, I usually simmer apples with a little bit of light caramel syrup and a couple of rooibos tea bags. Remove the tea bags, puree and add butter and a pinch of salt. Proportions are about a pound of apples, 1/2 C light caramel syrup (ratio of 2 parts water to one part sugar, with half the water added after caramelization is done) and about 2 oz of butter. These are approximate measures because a lot will depend on the apples you use and your own palate. You can skip the caramel syrup and just use sugar, to taste.

Hope this helps!

anno said...

Was planning on a baking-free weekend... until I saw these! The pears and ginger sound like an irresistible combination!

Sujata Varadarajan (Sujata Malhan) said...

Thanks very much, will try the recipes.

Barbara said...

What a fabulous treat for the holidays! I always know when I visit you I'm going to find something I can't resist!

Luv'n Spoonfuls said...

I can't begin to put into words how delicious this sounds to me! Simply perfect. I hope to try this out this weekend, but I already know I will LOVE IT! Beautiful post.

la zoom zoom said...

Wow! Just looking to this gingerbread makes me drool much and the pears make it more tasteful. I would love to try but it seems that it will gonna be a tough recipe for me. Anyway thanks you for sharing it with us.

julia { see you in the morning } said...

what a beauty!