Butterscotch Pears With Fresh Pear Ice Cream
There are certain dishes that I continue to fine-tune over the years, tweaking an ingredient here, making a small but significant change to the technique there, so they constantly evolve as my cooking does. These irresistible pears are a case in point. I first made them and published the recipe many years ago, and they’ve continued to be a favourite of mine as I think pears and anything caramel-y are sublime together.
- 4 barely ripe, medium-sized pears
- 1/2 lemon
- 90g unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup (55 g) caster sugar
- 70 g firmly packed dark brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
- About 1/4 -1/3 cup (60 – 80 ml) pure cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- Fresh pear ice cream or good vanilla ice cream, to serve
Fresh Pear Ice-Cream
- 1 kg just-ripe pears, peeled, quartered and cored
- 250 g caster sugar
- 1–2 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice
- 300 ml pure cream
- 4 egg yolks
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1–2 tablespoons eau de vie de poire William, optional
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Peel the pears, leaving the stalk attached. Cut them in half lengthwise and scoop out the core (if you have an old melon baller lurking in the back of a drawer, it’s perfect for this.) As you finish each half, rub it all over with the cut side of the lemon to help stop it browning.
Melt the butter in a large ovenproof frying pan over medium heat. Tip in both sugars. Stir them into the butter until the sugar is wet and looks slushy (it won’t dissolve completely.) Arrange the pear halves in the frying pan, cut-side down, in a single layer. Spoon some of the sugar mixture over the top of each one.
Put the pan in the oven and cook the pears for 25 minutes, basting them occasionally with the sugary juices. Then take the pan out of the oven, using good thick oven mitts or a couple of thick, folded tea towels because the handle gets red-hot. Carefully turn the pears over. Return them to the oven for 5 minutes, then turn them again and give them a few more minutes. They’re ready when the cored side of the pears is golden and they’re tender when very gently pierced with a fine skewer. Again protecting your hands, remove the pan from the oven and sit it on the cook top.
Gently scoop the pears out into a shallow dish – they’re very fragile at this stage so you need to be careful not to mark them as you do this. Turn the heat on under the pan and bring the remaining caramel mixture to the boil. It should be a lovely rich golden brown, if it’s a bit watery, boil it for a couple of minutes. Add the maple syrup (or honey), the cream, vanilla and salt. Whisk them together and, when the sauce is smooth and velvety, turn off the heat. (Sometimes the caramel looks a bit separated before you add the cream, but once you mix it in, the sauce smooths out.)
To serve, sit two pear halves in each bowl and spoon some of the butterscotch sauce evenly over the top, then finish off with a scoop of pear ice cream.
Fresh Pear Ice-Cream
This exquisite pear ice-cream has such a pure, clear pear flavour that it’s really quite perfect as is, but I’d have to say that paired with the glossy, caramel-glazed pears it’s an absolute knock-out dessert. By the way, the eau de vie de poire William, which is a clear, intensely pear-flavoured fruit brandy, isn’t necessary, but it is a lovely addition if by any chance you have a bottle.
To make the pear ice-cream, thinly slice the pears, then scoop the slices into a large bowl. Sprinkle them with the sugar and lemon juice, stir everything gently together, then cover the bowl and leave it in a cool spot for about an hour.
When the pears are nearly ready, heat the cream in a medium-sized saucepan over low heat until it’s nearly, but not quite, bubbling. Meanwhile, with a balloon whisk, beat the egg yolks in a bowl until they’re well combined. Slowly pour the hot cream onto the yolks, beating all the while to stop them from scrambling.
Return the mixture to the saucepan and sit it over low-ish heat. Cook it, stirring constantly with a flat-based wooden spoon or sauce whisk, until it thickens to a lovely custard consistency. As you stir, use a figure-of-8 motion to cover the entire base of the pan so the custard doesn’t ‘catch’ and burn. The most important thing of all is not to let it boil, otherwise it will curdle, so keep the heat low and gentle. Once the custard begins to thicken, remove it from the heat and strain it over the pears through a fine sieve.
Stir the pears and custard together, and mix in the vanilla and eau de vie de poire William, if using, then, with a stick or regular blender, purée the mixture as finely as possible (it will always be a little lumpy because of the texture of the pears). Pour the pear mixture into a container, seal it tightly and chill it for at least 3 hours or preferably overnight so the flavour develops – it’s surprising what a difference this makes.
Churn the pear mixture, in batches if necessary, in an ice-cream maker then store it in a tightly sealed container in the freezer at least overnight (it keeps well for up to a month). If you don’t have an ice-cream maker, pour the mixture into a stainless-steel bowl and pop it in the freezer. Leave it until the mixture has set a few centimetres in from the edges (this can take some hours) then remove it and whisk thoroughly. Repeat this freezing then whisking 3 or 4 times. After the final time, scrape the ice-cream into a container, cover it tightly and freeze it overnight to allow it to ‘ripen’ and develop more flavour.
Scooping is best done with an ice-cream scoop or large serving spoon. If the ice-cream is a bit hard, you might find it easier if you dip the scoop or spoon into hot water first, and wipe it dry between each serve.) Serve with the butterscotch pears.