Caramel Poached PearsExtract from Small Plates and Sweet Treats • By Aran Goyoaga • Published by Little, Brown and Company
Caramel-poached pears with crushed chocolate chip meringue
ONE OF THE THINGS THAT I THINK ABOUT when developing a recipe is the texture combination. In this case, I was looking for something soft, crunchy, and creamy. Sound plays a part too. I love to be able to “hear” all the textures as I take a bite. The poached pears are wonderfully creamy, and the meringue adds the crunchy element as well as the soft and gooey one. Serve with softly whipped cream, if you like.
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You Will Need
Make the meringue
Preheat the oven to 250°F (120°C).
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the pinch of salt. Whip on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Slowly, and while continuing to whip, add the sugar, a little at a time to prevent the meringue from deflating. Finish adding all the sugar and continue whipping until glossy and stiff peaks form, about 10 minutes.
Turn the mixer off and gently fold in the finely chopped chocolate.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a spoon, drop 12 mounds of meringue on the baking sheet, about 1 inch apart. Bake the meringues for 40 to 45 minutes, until they do not stick to the paper. You want them to be crispy on the outside yet soft on the inside. Let them cool until ready to assemble.
You can store the meringues in an airtight container for 1 week. They are great to have handy to eat alone or to crumble on top of ice cream or any creamy dessert.
Make the caramel and poach the pears
Evenly sprinkle the bottom of a 6-quart pot with roughly one-third of the demerara sugar. Turn the heat to medium-high and let the sugar melt. No need to stir at this point. When that first layer of sugar has melted, sprinkle in another one-third and let that melt as well. Then add the last of the sugar. Stir until there are no lumps or undissolved granules.
Pour in 4 cups (1 L) water. Be careful when doing so, because the caramel will splatter. The sugar might harden. Do not worry; let it melt back into the caramel.
Add both the vanilla seeds and the pod to the caramel. Add the pink peppercorns, star anise, and lemon peel.
Add the peeled pears to the caramel. Let them simmer, covered, on low heat for about 8 minutes or until tender. Remove the pot from the heat and let the pears cool in the syrup for about 4 hours.
Serve the poached pears warm or at room temperature; crumble the meringues over the top. You can store the pears in the caramel syrup, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.