Friday, October 5, 2012

Spicy Caramel Pear Ice Cream

A few weeks ago I wrote about some Spicy Caramel Pears from David Lebovitz that I paired with chocolate cake.  The pears are baked in an intoxicating sauce of butter and brown sugar along with a warm complement of cognac or brandy.  There's also a healthy dose of cinnamon, cloves, star anise and pepper for lots of depth and complexity.  Once they're baked to a soft and juicy texture, the sauce is finished with a splash of cream to give it a touch of luxury.  It's a great aromatic pear dessert made even better when served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

I always find the transition between seasons to be sort of slow pokey.  It takes me a while to shift from one set of seasonal pastry and dessert ideas and ingredients to the next.  But with each successive visit to the markets I start to shift gears.  And since pears are the fruit of the moment and I happen to really love pears, I decided to re-visit David's easy and delicious recipe and turn the baked pears into this spicy caramel pear ice cream.  And it was ridiculously easy to do!  I simply took the baked pears and the sauce and pureed them in my trusty food processor.  Then I added more cream, a balance of milk, some lemon juice and a good pinch of salt.  The result of this little excursion is some really good ice cream and a house that smells incredible with the warm spices of the season.  It's another good way to enjoy David's inspired pear dessert and definitely make the shift to fall.

Bench notes:
- Pears should be ripe but firm so they'll be tender and juicy for perfect flavor and texture.
- Depending on the size of your pears and the amount of the resulting puree, add the cream and milk, lemon juice and salt to your own taste.
- You can certainly make this all in one day but I did it in three stages.  I first baked the pears and let them sit overnight with the sauce to encourage the spices to flourish.  The next day, I pureed the pears with the sauce and added the remaining ingredients.  I let that chill overnight.  The next day I churned the ice cream.

Spicy Caramel Pear Ice Cream
Makes about 1 1/2 - 2 pints

Spicy Caramel Pears
adapted from Room for Dessert by David Lebovitz

2 oz (4 T) butter
1/2 C light or dark brown sugar, packed [I like dark]
15 whole cloves
2 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 t black peppercorns
1/4 C Cognac, brandy or rum [I used rum]
4 pears, Comice or Bosc [I used D'Anjou]
1/4 C heavy cream

For the Ice Cream
1 1/2 C - 2 C heavy cream, to taste
1/2 C - 1 C milk, to taste
2 t lemon juice, to taste
pinch salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Choose a baking dish large enough to hold the sliced pears in a single layer.

Cut the butter into small pieces and place it in the baking dish with the brown sugar.  Set the dish in the oven for a few minutes until the butter is melted.  Crush the whole spices by placing them in a plastic bag and pounding with a rolling pin.  Peel and core the pears and cut them into quarters.

Remove the dish from the oven and add the crushed spices and liquor.  Stir to combine all the ingredients.  Add the pears and toss everything together to coat the fruit.  Arrange pears in a single layer.  Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30 - 45 minutes, depending on the size and firmness of your pears.  The pears should be easily pierced with a knife but not mushy.  Stir and baste them a couple of times during baking so they're evenly coated with the sauce.

Remove the pears from the oven and lift them out of the cooking liquid and onto a plate to cool.  Scrape all the juices and spices from the baking dish into a saute pan.  Add 1/4 cup cream and cook over medium heat until the mixture turns a deep color, thickens and caramelizes.  Strain the finished sauce into the bowl of a food processor and let it cool.

Add the pears to the food processor and process with the sauce until you have a smooth puree.  Pour into a bowl and whisk in the cream and milk to taste, depending on how much puree you have and how you want to balance the richness.  Then add lemon juice and salt to taste.  Start with the lower end of suggested amounts and keep adding and adjusting these last ingredients until you have the right strength of flavor and a balance of sweet, fat (mouthfeel determined by the ratio of cream and milk) and brightness (lemon juice and salt).  Pour into an airtight container and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.

Freeze according to your ice cream machine's instructions.  Pour into a clean airtight container, press a piece of plastic wrap into the surface, cover and place in your freezer to firm up.


Kate said...

Wow! You are a genius!!
What a delicious sounding dessert! Perfect ice cream for those baked cakes and cookies of the fall and winter seasons ahead.
I often wish that there was a fruit accompaniment because it is my dessert preference.... I will gladly take it in frozen form.
In upstate New York we haven't had the California hot weather that demands a cooling treat but I can always turn up the heat ;)

Pam @ Sticks Forks Fingers said...

Long time subscriber here, but first time commenter. This is brilliant. Having a dinner party tonight, and am hoping that I can get this accomplished in time from pears growing on my own trees. Nice job of evolving an already wonderful recipe.

pastry studio said...

Kate, that's the spirit!

Pam, thanks so much for commenting! I hope you and your guests enjoy this, especially with home grown pears. I'm GREEN.