Monday, July 5, 2010

Pan Roasted Apples & Pears w/ Minted Blackberry Stock & Creme Fraiche

I spent the fourth of July weekend lake-side with about two dozen friends from college. The weather was perfect and sunny, the lake was cool, and the grill was always full. After dinner and hours in the sun, I was craving something refreshing and sweet. I whipped up this fruity dessert and served it in wine glasses just as the sun was setting over the water. We had dessert shots of Apple Brandy, which complimented this dish beautifully so I decided to incorporate them into this recipe. This is a wonderful dish for a crisp summer's eve.

2 Anjou Pears (or your favorite)
2 Fuji Apples (or your favorite)
1/4 C. Powdered Sugar, sifted to remove lumps
1-1/2 C. Blackberries
1 C. Simple Syrup (recipe follows)*
1 C. Creme Fraiche, for garnish (recipe follows)**
4 Sprigs of Mint, for garnish
2 Tbsp. Apple Brandy, Calvados (optional)

*Simple Syrup - there are three common types of simple syrups categorized as thin (3 parts water to 1 part sugar), medium (2 parts water to 1 part sugar), and heavy (equal parts sugar to water), but the possibilities are endless. Some syrups are even flavored with citrus zest or liquours. The recipe that follows is the one that I use every time I need a simple syrup.

Simple Syrup

1-1/4 lb. Sugar
1 Qt. Cold Water
1 Lemon, zested

Using low heat, dissolve the sugar, then boil for five minutes. Cool in the refrigerator, then pour the syrup into a container, and chill for up to 30 days.

**Creme Fraiche - a matured, thickened cream (similar to whipped and sour cream combined) with a tangy, nutty flavor. One of the benefits to creme fraiche is that unlike sour cream or other dairy products, it can be boiled without curdling. In France, cream is unpasteurized and; therefore, naturally contains the bacteria necessary for thickening cream. In the United States; however, all of our cream is pasteurized (free of this needed bacteria). In order to acquire the fermenting agents that are necessary to create the bacteria which thickens creme fraiche, we must add sour cream or buttermilk.

Creme Fraiche

1 C. Whipping Cream
2 Tbsp. Buttermilk

Combine the two ingredients in a glass container, stir well to incorporate, cover, and let stand at room temperature for 8-24 hours, or until very thick. Unwrap, stir generously, and refrigerate for up to 10 days.

First, you need to core and then slice the apples and pears. Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Toss the apples and pears in the powdered sugar and then add them to the skillet in a single layer. If you have to cook the fruit in batches, that's fine. Cook the fruit until it is caramelized, then turn the fruit to caramelize the opposite side. Be careful not to overcook the fruit, they should still be firm. Medium high to high heat works best because it will caramelize the sugars on the outside of the fruit quickly without cooking the fruit through the center.

Using a fork or a potato masher, mash the blackberries in a bowl. Add the caramelized fruit mixture, simple syrup, and apple brandy (if desired). Toss all the ingredients until incorporated. Let cool in the refrigerator at least 2 hours. The sugar will thicken the syrup as it cools.

Spoon the dessert into serving dishes or wine glasses, and serve garnished with creme fraiche and mint.

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