SAFFRON POACHED PEARS - ALL DRESSED UP IN SHREDDED PHYLLO DOUGH
Pears poached in saffron, stuffed with dates and nuts, and all dressed up in a gown of two kinds of phyllo dough. The pears are then lovingly drenched in a shower of chardonnay sauce. All this with a garnish of seedless grapes.
This recipe evolved from Saffron Poached Pears with Almond Ice Cream. In this presentation, rather than cutting each pear in half after poaching, the pears are left whole, the cores are removed, and the cavity is filled with a soft fresh date. In both recipes the stately Bosc pear, with its distinctive long and elegant curved stem, is the pear of choice.
Pears, and other types of fruit, are poached to change the texture of the fruit (to cook it so it becomes more tender), add flavor, and/or enhance color (such as when fruit is poached in red wine). In many cases, including this recipe, the poaching step accomplishes all three objectives.
When most people think of pears poached in wine, they picture the classic rendition that utilizes red wine, often port, flavored with cinnamon and vanilla as the poaching medium. After cooking the pears, the delicious fruit and spice infused wine is usually reduced to a syrupy consistency and served as a sauce. Ruby Port Poached Pears with Verbena Bavarois and Port Wine Reduction is an example of this traditional technique. The same application is also popular for whole figs (see Crème Catalan with Poached Black Mission Figs).
Two things that make this recipe a bit different are the use of white wine and the inclusion of saffron, but the component that really stands out is the unusual and eye-catching strands of crisp kadaif phyllo dough draped over and around the top of the pear. The word kadaif; also spelled kataifi, is actually the name of a Middle Eastern dessert that includes these long, thin strands of pastry dough, however, both terms are also used to describe the dough itself, which is a form of phyllo dough. Like phyllo dough sheets, kadaif phyllo is usually sold frozen and care must be taken to keep it from drying out as you work with it. Packaged in bulk form, kadaif looks very much like dried Chinese rice noodles, shredded
wheat or coils of very thin dried pasta like vermicelli. Neither of the aforementioned look-alikes are a replacement.
RECIPE PRINTED FROM: THEGUTSYGOURMET.NET©
NOTE: This recipe might look quite complicated, due to the ample instructions, but it is really quite simple.
SAFFRON POACHED PEARS
INGREDIENTS: SERVES 12
● 12 small Bosc pears, stem on
● Saffron Poaching Liquid (recipe follows)
● 16 sheets phyllo dough **SEE COOK'S NOTE**
● 1 package of shredded kataife dough.**SEE COOK'S NOTE**
● 4 ounces (115 g) melted unsalted butter
● 12 whole fresh dates
● Almond Filling (recipe follows)
● 1 recipe Chardonnay Wine Sauce (recipe follows)
● Powdered sugar
● Fresh almonds in the husk and/or small clusters of grapes for decorating (optional)
1. If you have any reasonable amount of Phyllo dough, flat sheet or shredded, It can be refrigerated for up to a week
and used for some other recipe.
1. Peel the pears, keeping the stems intact, and placing the fruit into acidulated water as you work to prevent
oxidation. Transfer the pears to the saucepan with the saffron poaching liquid and bring to a simmer. Set a
lid or plate that fits down inside the pan on top of the fruit to keep it submerged, placing a cloth towel or
several layers of paper toweling between the lid and the fruit. Poach the pears until they are just cooked
through and soft to the touch. Be careful not to overcook the fruit as it will be baked and served standing on
end, and over poaching will cause it to lose shape or worse, fall apart. Remove the pan from the heat and set
the pears aside (in the liquid), for a minimum of 6 hours or, preferably, refrigerate overnight to allow the pears
to absorb the maximum amount of flavor and color from the liquid.
2. Cut a round template 5 1/2 inches (13.7 cm) in diameter from cardboard or have a lid or plate of the same size
handy. Unwrap and unroll the phyllo dough and cut the stacked phyllo sheets in half lengthwise. Cut across in
thirds, dividing each sheet of dough into 6 pieces. Place the pieces in 2 stacks and cover 1 stack with a lightly
dampened cloth. Place a piece from the remaining stack on the table in front of you. Brush some of the melted
butter in a circle, 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter, in the center of the dough. Place a second piece of dough on top
and brush butter on it in the same way. Continue layering and brushing with butter until you have used 8 pieces
of phyllo. Do not butter the top of the stack.
3. Place the template on top of the stack. Cut around the template with a paring knife and remove the scraps.
Brush butter over the top layer of the circle. Carefully press the stack of dough into a small individual pie form
that is 7 ounces (210 ml) in capacity and measures 4 1/2 inches in diameter across the top, 2 3/4 inches in
diameter across the bottom, and 1 1/2 inches tall (11.2 x 6.8 x 3.7 cm). If the circle does not form an evenly
fluted edge, shape it with your hands. Repeat to form the remaining 11 phyllo dough shells. Place the lined
forms on two sheet pans. Discard any leftover phyllo scraps.
4. Remove the pears from the poaching liquid and pat them dry with paper towels. Reserve the liquid for another
use. Using the tip of a paring knife, make a horizontal cut beginning no more than 1/2 inch (1.2 cm) below the
stem, cutting three-quarters of the way through each pear, leaving the stems attached. Cut just enough from
the bottom of each pear to allow it to stand straight up. Push an apple corer up through the bottom of each
pear, up to the horizontal cut, and remove the cores. If you do not have a corer, this step can be completed
with a melon-ball cutter. In this case omit the horizontal cut and proceed with care.
5. Make a cut lengthwise in each date and remove the pits. Push a date into each pear from the bottom. Stand the
pears straight up. Using a paring knife, score vertical lines, about 3/8 inch (9 mm) apart, cutting from the
bottom to the top of the pears, making softly curved cuts without cutting all the way through to the date. Wrap
aluminum foil around the pear stems to keep the stems from becoming too dark as they bake.
6. Place the almond filling in a pastry bag and pipe it into the phyllo shells, dividing it evenly. Place a pear in
each shell and press it down firmly.
7. Bake the pears at 400°F (205°) until the phyllo shells and the almond filling are both light golden brown, about
12 minutes. Lightly drape strands of kadaif phyllo dough over and around the pears as shown in the photo; do
not cover the pear stems. Return the pears to the oven until the kadaif is golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes
8. Presentation:Place a pastry in the center of a dessert plate. Spoon Chardonnay sauce,
including and evenly spacing some of the whole grapes in the sauce, in an irregularly shaped ring around the
dessert. The sauce should not touch the phyllo shell or the shell will become soggy. Sift powdered sugar over
the dessert as well the surface of the plate. Garnish with fresh almonds or grape clusters if desired.
INGREDIENTS: Saffron Poaching Liquid
Yield: 10 cups
● 2 quarts white wine
● ⅓ cup lemon juice
● 8 whole cloves
● 2 small cinnamon sticks
● 1 teaspoon crushed saffron threads, loosely packed **SEE COOK'S NOTES**
● 1 pound 8 ounces granulated sugar
1. Combine all of the ingredients in a nonreactive saucepan large enough to accommodate the pears, and bring
to a boil.
2. Use as directed in the main recipe.
1. You can vary the amount of saffron used to produce the desired intensity of both the color and flavor that it
adds to the pears. The age of the saffron will also effect its potency.
INGREDIENTS: Almond Filling
Yields: 1 pound, 2 ounces
● 6 ounces almond paste
● 8 ounces granulated sugar
● 4 egg whites (½ cup)
1. Combine the almond paste, granulated sugar, and 1 egg white, using the paddle attachment of the mixer or by
hand with a spoon.
2. When completely smooth add the remaining egg whites 1 at a time, again mixing until smooth after each
addition to avoid lumps. The mixture should be fairly thin, almost runny. It is not possible to specify the exact
number of egg whites needed as this varies depending on the texture of the almond paste.
hardonnay Wine Sauce
Yields: approximately 2 cups
COOKS NOTE* This sauce can also be made by replacing the Chardonnay with white grape juice.
● 2 cups Chardonnay wine
● 4 teaspoons cornstarch
● 6 ounces small green grapes, stemmed, Thompson seedless**SEE COOK'S NOTES**
● 6 ounces (170 g) granulated sugar
● ¼ cup orange liqueur, Grand Marnier
1. Make a slurry by mixing 1/4 cup of the wine with the cornstarch; reserve.
2. Rinse the grapes, reserve half of them, choosing the smaller ones depending on the variety. Place the remaining wine,
the remaining grapes, the sugar and the orange liqueur in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook over medium heat
until the grapes split open, about 5 minutes.
3. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer, using a spoon to force as much juice out of the grapes as possible.
Discard the solids in the strainer.
4. Stir the reserved cornstarch slurry into the grape juice-wine mixture. Return to the heat and bring to a quick boil.
You can, if you wish, test the viscosity at this point by placing a teaspoon of sauce in the refrigerator to chill and
then bringing it back to room temperature: the puddle should hold its shape at room temperature. Adjust the
consistency if necessary by cooking the sauce further to reduce it, or by adding more liquid (wine or Simple Syrup)
if it is too thick.
5. Stir in the reserved whole or sliced grapes. Cool and store in the refrigerator.
1. Preferably, try to use Thompson seedless grapes since they are smaller and sweeter than the more readily available
table grapes. If you must use large grapes, cut the reserved grapes into slices before adding them to the syrup.
1. If you do not plan to use up the sauce by the following day, add grapes only to the part you are using at the time
since the grapes, not being cooked to preserve their green color and sugar acidity, if sliced they will start to
deteriorate in the sauce.
Saffron is by far the most expensive of all spices. The saffron threads used for flavoring are the bright orange three
pronged stigma, as well as a portion of the style that comes with it, of a variety of purple a crocus. They can only be
harvested by hand, and takes around 75,000 blossoms to produce one pound of saffron. Several varieties of this crocus
grows wild around the Mediterranean. Saffron has been used since ancient times; the Romans introduced it to Northern
Europe. Later, in the eighth century, the Muslims brought it west to Spain, which today is the largest producer. Saffrons
earliest know roots were in Buddist Asia where it ws said to be used to dye the robes of the Buddist Monks. Saffron is
indispensable for making Spanish paella, French bouillabaisse, risotto Milanese. It is used widely in Middle Eastern
cooking, and in European baking. Do not purchase ground bottled saffron if you want the flavor as well as the color.
Saffron should be stored in an airtight container in a cool dark place to preserve it's freshness. No telling how long it
has been on the shelf in the market. It is best if less than a few months old.
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