Pears Poached in Caramel with Toasted Brioche and Creme Fraiche
This lovely dessert is simpler than it sounds, and is a variation on a rather more elaborate recipe by Raymond Blanc, where he encases the poached pears in a 'charlotte' of brioche and bakes it. He suggests the simpler version of poaching the pears in caramel sauce and serving it with a slice of toasted brioche with a spoonful of creme fraiche, so this is the route I took. We had more of the perfect little baby Williams Pears from Riverford this week, so peeled them and poached them in the rich caramel sauce which is made thus: dissolve 5 tablespoons of caster sugar with 2 tablespoons of water in a heavy pan over a low heat. Turn up the heat, and cook to a good golden caramel, not quite as dark as you would for a creme caramel but a good dark colour all the same. DON'T stir it whilst this is happening, else the sugar will crystallise and be ruined. If necessary, just swish the pan occasionally. When the correct colour is attained, take off the heat and immediately add 100ml of double cream - take care as it will spatter. When it has all subsided, return to a low heat, add 25g of butter and a tablespoon each of lemon juice and either Calvados, Cognac or Poires William if you have it. Now submerge 8 small or 4 larger peeled pears in the sauce, cover, and simmer until tender. This depends on size and ripeness, but our baby pears were done in about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool with the lid on, then transfer the pears with all their delicious caramel sauce to a bowl and refrigerate. You can eat them as they are with vanilla ice cream, toasted nuts, shortbread, whatever floats your boat. Or, if you have some brioche knocking about (as you do), toast a small slice per person, and serve the sweet bread with the pear, some sauce and ice cream or creme fraiche. Perfect.