Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Pears in Chocolate Sauce--A Perfect Vacation Finale

When I went through my recent posts I thought that it was time for a dessert again. And, although you cannot deny that the fall is approaching, last days of summer can be still hot making fruit desserts most desirable.

As a child, I never liked the time when apples and pears were ripening in our little orchard. It meant that the school year was about to begin and cold and rainy months were coming. On one of the three radio stations we had, Joe Dassin, my then French pop idol, was singing his deeply nostalgic "Indian Summer", perfectly in tune with my increasingly melancholic mood.

But late summer and early fall in DC is a very joyful season. It is warm and sunny. Skies are clear and air is fresh. With the end of the punishing heat and humidity, it is the time when relaxed people are coming back to town from vacations. School will start soon and will keep our kids busy. Meanwhile, we have a lot of memories to share over dinners and wine with our cosmopolitan friends.

The real fall in DC is not so much about pears, which are available almost the whole year round, but pumpkins. It really comes in late October, when farmers start to sell pumpkins at their seasonal markets.

So with this little pear dessert I am not trying to rush the fall in but would like it to be a celebration of the vacation end and all the beauty of the late summer. It is a simple and elegant dessert and can impress any fruit lover with a sweet tooth. I think it has its roots in the Hungarian cuisine but stand to be corrected on this score.

Pears in Chocolate Sauce
(Six servings)

3 firm pears,
1 cup water,
1/2 cup sweet wine,
2 tbsp sugar,
1 vanilla pod, if available,
1 tbsp lemon juice,
1/2 cup ground walnuts,
2 tbsp powdered sugar,
2-4 tbsp sour cream,
1 cup good quality dark chocolate; I like to use dark Lindt, or semi-sweet chocolate chips,
2-4 tbsp milk, but have some extra amount handy just in case.

1. Peel the pears, cut in half, and remove seeds leaving a round hollow space in their place.
2. In a pot, boil water, wine, lemon juice, sugar and the vanilla seeds from the vanilla pod together for 1 minute.
3. Place pears' halves in syrup and let them cook for about 8-10 minutes.
4. Remove pears from the hot syrup and cool down on a plate.
5. Mix walnuts with powdered sugar and cream to achieve a smooth and thick cream.
6. Melt chocolate in milk--it can be done over the boiling water, in a microwave oven, or very slowly on a stove, but you need to stir it all the time. You may need to add more milk to obtain a sauce-like consistency, depending on the type of chocolate you use.
7. Place pears on a dessert plate inside up and fill them with the walnut paste, creating a small mound sticking out.
8. Pour a cooled down chocolate sauce over, decorate with mint leaves and serve.

In the original recipe pears should be cooked in syrup, but recently I baked them at 375F for about 10 minutes in two-three tablespoons of sweet wine with two tablespoons of sugar added to it and they also tasted delicious. It seems to be a simpler method as well.

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