The fruits available for breakfast at my office in my opinion is amongst the best produce. They are so juicy and sweet. Earlier this week, there were golden baby pears. They were so tender and aromatic that I took one extra back to my desk and kept sniffing it the whole day!
Wanting to do proper justice to this lone pear, I mentally made plans to poach it. Fruit poaching is something that I have frequently seen and heard of but never tried. This pear gave me a perfect reason to give it a go.
I considered quite a few flavours for the poaching liquid, ranging from red wine to cinnamon to vanilla. I eventually decided on pairing my pear with vanilla and cardamom. Then I remembered that I had saffron that my mum and I had purchased during our vacation in Turkey earlier this year (btw, Turkey is a ‘have to go at least once’ place, if you haven’t been there already). And if you do go there, visiting the spice market and buying saffron is a total must. They are of excellent quality, impart a beautiful colour and are equally fragrant.
So getting back to the present, when you have good quality saffron with you, there is no reason to not add that in as well. My third element for the syrup thus became saffron. Honestly, I’m so happy I did that. It really lifted the taste.
Next thing that my mind got distracted with was what the pear should be accompanied with. Till I got down to actually making the dish, I was thinking of dipping it into dark chocolate for a tender fruit-crunchy chocolate shell texture. But then I felt that it was so old school. Dipping fruits in chocolate is after all, quite common.
While working on my poaching syrup, my mind wandered back to my college days, when I was studying Food Science. One of the final exam component was to show the examiner how to make perfect sugar beads and caramel with one string consistency.
I still remember my panicked frame of mind the day before that exam, since I had no clue how to do it correctly. I did manage to pass the test (thank you, mom), and actually had a lot of fun doing it too. It was then that it hit me; why not make a spun sugar nest!
So that is what I ended up with: saffron, vanilla and cardamom poached pear sitting snuggly around a glossy sugar nest.
Serving this with vanilla ice-cream quenelle and saffron syrup, my dish was complete. And absolutely gorgeous.
- Golden pear – 1 small, peeled with stem intact
- Saffron strands – 1 tsp
- Cardamom powder – 1 tsp
- Vanilla extract – 5-8 drops
- Sugar – 1/4 cup
- Water – 1.25 cup
- Lemon – 1/4, juiced
- Sugar – 1/4 cup
- Water – 1 tbsp
- Vanilla ice-cream – optional
- Drizzle lemon juice over the pear and let it rest for 5-10 minutes
- To remaining ingredients listed under poached pear above and heat it under medium flame, stirring it occassionally
- Allow syrup to simmer till you get a slightly thickened consistency (or till you are happy with the concentrated flavour). This should take approximately 15-20 minutes
- Reduce flame to low and add the pear
- Cover the pan and allow the pear to cook for 15 minutes
- Turn the pear over in between, to ensure that the entire pear is equally poached
- After 15 minutes, check if the pear is cooked by inserting a toothpick; if it easily pricks the pear, the fruit is cooked
- Remove the pear from the syrup onto a plate and allow it to cool
- Continue simmering the poaching syrup; this will be used to pour over the pear before serving
- Add sugar and water to a pan and heat under medium flame
- Keep stirring the mixture frequently (preferably with a wooden spatula)
- The sugar will change its textures quite a few times before caramelising: 1) Sticky grainy paste 2) coarse dry powder, 3) lumpy sugar with bits starting to melt, and 4) complete melting and browning of sugar
- You need to achieve level 4; this will take 10-15 minutes, so be patient and keep stirring the mixture to ensure that the sugar does not burn
- The end result will be smooth golden brown caramel. Switch off the flame
- Using a fork, dip the ends into the caramel and lift it up
- If the caramel starts dripping down into single strands, you can start to spinning the sugar. If not, let the caramel cool down for another 30 seconds before trying again
- Keep a clean working surface ready to make the nest
- Dip the tip of the fork into the caramel and quickly drizzle it in a thin stream in a criss-cross manner onto the working surface
- Repeat process till you have adequate strands
- Gently lift them up and shape them into a nest
- Keep the nest onto the plate and place the pear in the centre
- Pour saffron syrup onto the pear and add saffron strands on the pear to decorate it
- Pour the syrup into a serving jug and lastly, put a scoop of vanilla ice-cream onto the plate