David Lebovitz’s oven roasted pears in a scotch-caramel sauce are a very good idea for a holiday dessert. Add star-shaped praline-studded cornmeal shortcakes, a dollop of whipped crème fraîche, and a glass of Sauternes to take it over the top. (Thanks again for that wonderful meal, Paul M! “Eating Winter” December 2007, Palo Alto CA)
2 1/2 cups unbleached wheat flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
6 tablespoons unrefined cane sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup praline pieces, recipe follows (optional)
1 large egg, beaten (for glaze)
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in food processor. Add butter and pulse until butter is in small pea-sized pieces. Add buttermilk and pulse until dough just comes together. Mix in the praline pieces with a couple pulses.
2. Pat dough on lightly floured surface until approximately 1 inch thick. Cut out 6 stars with a 3 inch star cookie cutter. Gather and pat out the leftover scraps and make 6 or 7 more stars.
3. Place the stars on a parchment covered baking sheet, brush with beaten egg and bake for 15 – 20 minutes until golden brown.
makes about 3 cups of crunchy, sugar-coated pecans
2 cups pecan halves
1 cup unrefined cane sugar
1/3 cup water
1. In medium saucepan, heat water, sugar and pecans.
2. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the liquid crystallizes and becomes sandy. (Approximately 10 minutes.)
3. Continue to cook and stir until the sugar crystals liquefy and coat the nuts. This takes a few minutes, be patient, it will happen. Just keep an eye on everything and make sure it doesn’t burn.
4. Remove from heat and spread on baking sheet pan to cool. When cool, chop into coarse pieces.
Scotch Caramel Pears
8 firm, ripe pears (d’anjou or bosc), peeled, cored and each cut into 12 slices
12 tablespoons dark brown sugar (muscovado tastes great)
1 cup apricot preserves (I used Frog Hollow apricot conserves — excellent flavor)
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 tablespoons scotch (optional; substitute water)
lemon zest (for garnish)
creme fraiche, whipped (for garnish)
1. Prepare the pears and place in a shallow 2 quart baking dish. Toss with lemon juice, brown sugar, preserves, cinnamon, water and scotch.
2. Cover with foil and bake 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.
3. Serve with a few gratings of fresh lemon zest, a dollop of whipped creme fraiche and a star shortcake.