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Entries in pears (11)

Monday
Jan202014

Pear Chocolate Scones

Pear Chocolate Scones

The melancholy part of winter has arrived for me. After so many months spent in my small one bedroom apartment, working and sleeping, I feel cooped up without an escape. The weather has been frightful, with temperatures in the negative numbers and windchills even lower. Lately, though, no one bats an eye at the forecast anymore. Perhaps we are becoming one with the arctic.

On days like these I wonder what it would be like to live where winter weather doesn't mean that one needs to bundle up from head to toe to stay alive when they walk out the front door.

Pear Chocolate Scones Pear Chocolate Scones Pear Chocolate Scones

In the summer, the sun casts a golden light on the world. The feeling of the sun on the face warms the skin all the way down to the soul. In the winter, the very same sun has a sharper edge. I no longer welcome the sun as before, wishing for cloudy skies instead. The sun's light is harsh, reflecting off the white ground with a blinding intensity. The sun no longer warms, but leaves a bittersweet reminder of the summer months so far ahead and so far behind.

Oh, those winter blues...

Pear Chocolate Scones

On a snow day from school this week, I made a cup of tea and turned on the oven to bake. With the wind blowing its fiercest, I rolled up my sleeves and mixed up a warming batch of scones. Scones are simple fare and this recipe is no exception. The act of mixing together the ingredients by hand, cutting in the butter and forming the dough with my fingers and palms, have a healing effect.

The melancholy air lifts and, for a few moments, I can enjoy my creation in peace.

Pear Chocolate Scones

Pear Chocolate Scones combine subtle flavors in a breakfast treat. Ripe pears are diced up and folded into a basic scone recipe with a few chocolate chunks. The choice of pear is of little consequence—Bartlett, Bosc, or Red pears will do. When finished baking, the scones emerge flaky and ready for tasting. The scones are best enjoyed the day they are prepared.

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Sunday
Nov242013

Gingerbread Bundt Cake with Pear Caramel Glaze

Gingerbread Cake with Pear Caramel Glaze

It was the end of summer. I sat on top of a suitcase, using my weight to close it an extra inch so I could draw the zipper closed. Brushing myself off, I stood back and surveyed my handiwork. Three suitcases lay side-by-side, holding all of my material possessions within their zippered walls. I was moving the next morning, fifteen hundred miles and a country away, going to Montreal for graduate school. This wasn't my first time leaving home, but it was my first time leaving everyone and everything I knew behind. As excited as I was, it was difficult to say goodbye.

For the first few weeks, I fumbled around as a non-French speaker in a French city, learning to read foreign signs and labels and trying to collect enough language to make it through a cash register exchange. As much as I was falling in love with the city and culture, there was still a part of me that ached for the familiarity of my old life. Growing up, the kitchen was where family and friends converged, exchanging stories over warm cookies and cold milk. I especially missed this gathering place.

Before the move, I had begun learning how to bake. It felt natural to continue that quest as I adjusted to my new life, so I began spending more time in the kitchen, finding a little of the familiarity I had been longing for.

Gingerbread Cake with Pear Caramel Glaze

When I first learned the basics of cooking, my mother would get phone calls from me daily, asking questions about everything from cooking chicken to beating egg whites for meringue. Living so far from her now meant that my mother was no longer a simple call away. When I ran into kitchen trouble, I was on my own. Despite this, our past conversations hovered in the air, her wealth of knowledge in my memory and her voice echoing in my mind. As I cooked dinner, she reminded me of the ratios for cooking rice and how to make toast without a toaster. Though she didn’t know it, my mother continued to guide me through the kitchen, stubbornly refusing to let me forget everything she had taught me over the years.

Lessons from my grandmother soon followed in my tiny kitchen. Her voice revealed that coffee brought out the flavor of chocolate and reminded me that butter made everything better. Her gnarled hands showed me how to knead bread as I struggled with my first ventures into yeast. I remembered watching her cook, sprinkling salt into her palm to finish off a dish and throwing the rest over her shoulder. Though I felt awkward about it, I followed her practiced motions, feeling as though there must be a greater reason for it. I couldn’t quite see the purpose, though; I envisioned my feet tracking salt over the rest of the apartment and me having to clean it up later. Perhaps there were some kitchen tricks I could do without after all.

Gingerbread Cake with Pear Caramel Glaze

Re-runs of Julia Child’s cooking shows found their way into my apartment and I watched as she whisked up omelets and stewed Boeuf Bourguignon. Though she didn’t teach me how to cook, she did teach me that a little clumsiness and awkwardness in the kitchen was perfectly acceptable. After dropping two frosted cakes and a pitcher of blended margaritas onto the floor (the latter of which I’m still not ready to talk about), the solidarity I had with Julia made scraping the frosting off the floor more bearable. I imagined Julia whispering that if I quickly picked up the cake and placed it back on the stand no one would notice. Even though Julia was quite wrong—my crime was painfully obvious—putting it back on the stand did make it easier to eat with a fork.

Several months after I moved, during a quiet autumn afternoon, my mother came to visit. The morning before she arrived I set out to make her a welcoming cake. I had just finished paging through a food memoir and a recipe for gingerbread with caramelized pears caught my eye. Though I had never worked with fresh ginger or caramel, Julia’s fearless attitude and my grandmother’s voice guided me in using fresh spices and creating the perfect caramel without a candy thermometer.

Gingerbread Cake with Pear Caramel Glaze

When my travel-weary mother stepped into my kitchen for the first time, I dusted off my apron and welcomed her into my new home. I made tea and sliced the cake. We spent the next few hours catching up over warm pastries and caramel—the perfect therapy for a mother and daughter who had missed each other.

The experience of my grandmother, the guidance from my mother and the wit of Julia Child taught me how to bake (and reminded me never to take food too seriously). Even though there was only one set of hands working in my small kitchen, a chorus of voices filled the air, directing me along my course. The wisdom from these women in my life was a simple reminder that even in an unfamiliar place, I was never truly alone in the kitchen.

Gingerbread Cake with Pear Caramel Glaze

Gingerbread Bundt Cake with Pear Caramel Sauce is a cozy treat to enjoy on frosted nights. The flavors of fresh ginger and molasses harmonize together in this dark, spiced cake. The addition of sour cream and a handful of spices lend a rich moistness to the cake while rounding out the flavor. Just before serving, the cake is glazed with a pear caramel sauce to add the right touch of sweetness. The caramel is made from a pear juice reduction—eliminating the need for a candy thermometer—making this cake as easy to prepare as it is to devour.

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Sunday
Nov112012

Chai Pear Scones

Chai Pear Scones

I've scarcely seen the sun in the last month. Thick clouds obscure the light, turning day into reflections of night. Even though my body aches for a good dose of vitamin D, the overcast skies and foggy mornings lend a beauty all their own. Mother Nature's dreary mood makes it easy to stay at home, buried underneath blankets, sipping hot black tea. Comfort food fits the character of the weather. Earlier this week I made a batch of homemade chicken noodle & barley soup; half a dozen hot meals later, I can say with certainty that I'm glad to have used the biggest pot.

Though the leaves have left the trees bare long ago, fall weather is still in the air.

Chai Pear Scones

With gloomy skies outside the window, it has become increasingly difficult to pull myself out of bed in the morning. In the summer, when the sun rises bright and early, I feel awake and ready for the day, afraid I may miss out if I linger in bed any longer. In the fall, I'm lucky to see the other side of eight in the morning. The dark, sunless skies make me want to bury myself in the warmth of the blankets and stay in bed for hours, cozy and comfortable. Despite how I'd rather spend my mornings, responsibilities never stop calling. I allow myself to hit the snooze button once or twice, using it to prolong the inevitable first steps out of bed.

With sleepy eyes and an aversion to brightness, I slowly find a way to face the day.

Chai Pear Scones Chai Pear Scones

The long, dark weather makes it difficult for me to get any real work done. In between watching television and reading books, I'm drawn to the warmth of the oven and sweetening the air with the scents of autumn. Dark, moody days are my favorite for photography. I know most photographers prefer to shoot by the bright light of the sun, but I adore how the somber light brings sharp shadows and a rough texture to the food. The food somehow feels more raw to me, making the food appear less overdone (but no less appetizing).

These scones were photographed on the dreariest morning of last week. With a rain streaked window and only a hint of light coming in through the panes, I feel like I managed to capture the essence of the morning.

Chai Pear Scones

Chai Pear Scones is where the love of scones meets the enchantment of a cup of tea. The chai spices complement the complexity of a ripe pear in this simple breakfast pastry. A good sprinkling of sugar on top of the scones before they go into the oven ensures they will develop a thin, sweet crust which adds great texture to an otherwise tender scone. The scones themselves are not very sweet, so the subtle nature of the pears is truly able to shine through. I've said it before and I'll say it again—scones and overcast skies are meant to be enjoyed together.

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