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Pears - the pick of the crop

September 17, 2013

Pears are great for poaching, baking, salads, savoury dishes, desserts or even matching with wine and cheese.

They are available almost all year round - there are eight varieties available from January to November, peaking in March. There are currently plenty at my local market.

Pears are high in fibre which can help lower cholesterol. And they are low GI, which makes them an ideal nutritious snack to keep you going.

To check when a pear is ready to eat, press the flesh around the stem gently. If ripe it will give a little.

Here are a couple of recipes, courtesy of Australian Pears. You will find more on their website.

Pear and vanilla cakes

2 litres water
2 2/3 cups (370g) caster sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
12x 125g Beurre Bosc pears, peeled and cored

Vanilla cake
125 g butter, softened
2⁄3 cup (150g) caster sugar
2 eggs
1 ¼ cups (190g) self-raising flour, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup (125 ml) milk

Place the water, sugar and vanilla in a saucepan over low heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved.

Add the pears, cover with a round of non-stick baking paper and a lid, and cook for 25–30 minutes or until tender.

Drain on absorbent paper, set aside and allow to cool.

Preheat oven to 160C. Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 8–10 minutes or until pale and creamy. Gradually add the eggs and vanilla, beating well after each addition. Fold in the flour and milk.

Line 12x 1 cup (250ml) capacity muffin tins with paper cases and spoon ¼ cup (60ml) of the mixture into each case.

Carefully push in the pears and bake for 30–35 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer.

Makes 12.

Upsidedown pear pudding with vanilla custard

3 Beurre Bosc pears, peeled, halved and cored
1 cup caster sugar
3 cups water
3 tablespoons soft brown sugar
175g soft unsalted butter
3/4 cup caster sugar
4 eggs
1 cup shifted self-raising flour
1 teaspoon sifted baking powder
3 teaspoons cinnamon
100g ground almonds
Vanilla custard to serve

Heat the oven to 180C. Line a 23cm cake tin with non-stick baking paper.

Put the caster sugar and water into a saucepan and gently cook until the sugar dissolves. Add the pear halves to the pan. Gently cook the pears for 10 minutes or until tender. Remove from the syrup using a slotted spoon and cool. Throw away the syrup.

Sprinkle the cake tin with the brown sugar and arrange the pears cut side down over the sugar.

In a large bowl cream the butter and caster sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, along with 1 tablespoon of flour, beating well between each addition. Fold through the remaining flour, baking powder, cinnamon and almonds.

Spoon over the pears and smooth the surface. Bake in the oven for 50-55 minutes or until skewer inserted into the pudding comes out clean. Remove from the oven and carefully turnout onto a serving plate. Cut into slices and serve with vanilla custard.

Serves eight.

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