I’m sure we’re not alone. How many times have you looked for a sophisticated dessert but it has to be super light, gluten free, simple but effective? Now that we’ve had our fill of Christmas puddings, pumpkin pies, yule logs, mince pies, fruit cakes and chocolates in all forms, who’s ready to start all over again to bring in the New Year with yet more gastronomic pleasures? Count me in, as long as it’s slightly lighter this time.
When entertaining the French, it took me a few years to work out that menus need to be planned carefully; if I’m serving a large main course after an amuse-bouche (something small to tickle the tastebuds before the meal) then starter/hors-d’oeuvres – and then it’s followed with an ambitious taste-of-the-regions cheese board – it can be difficult keeping up when a heavy finale to the meal is served. I used to love doing that and soon learned the hard way. With a thud.
The French could have a crise cardiaque (heart attack) if they see a large pudding arrive, piled high on their plate and since they’re polite, they wade through it and suffer in silence. I’m now the same. Have you ever had that feeling of just being so stuffed that you’re kicking-yourself-for-being-so-greedy uncomfortable?
For light dessert inspiration, I pounced straight away on Anne-Sophie Pic’s French cookbook, Recettes Pour Recevoir. The Michelin-starred chef has put together her cooking lessons for ideal recipes aimed at entertaining. Claudia, aka Journey of an Italian Cook, talked more about Anne-Sophie Pic’s career last week and shares her tomato chutney.)
Anne-Sophie Pic’s dessert for a poached pear in vanilla and blackcurrant with a coffee fondant seemed a perfectly light and chic end to a meal. What really caught me eye, though, is that it would be beautifully peared (couldn’t help myself, sorry) with macarons.
That would definitely keep my French friends happy. But I can’t just copy a recipe from a cookbook. So, I inversed the flavours: the fondant au café and vanilla tuile was replaced by a tutti-frutti blackcurrant macaron (see p.83 of Mad About Macarons!) and the blackcurrant poaching sauce was replaced by a coffee sauce. My first try. Shame about the presentation, Jimmy. However, dead easy and the dessert was now totally gluten-free.
What I love about macarons is that they can be made a few days in advance (or even frozen and taken out the freezer 1 hour before serving at room temperature) so you can stay zen while preparing the rest of the meal.
Not only can you serve them as a double bill with chocolate-coffee macarons, but if you have left-over chocolate ganache from your macarons, then warm it gently and offer it as a triple whammy with the pear and vanilla-coffee syrup.
By serving a light dessert like this, nobody feels the need to stuff themselves more than they wish. The paradox is that when you do serve them on a large platter in the middle of the table, I’ve noticed that guests tend to eat much more than they were intending. But hey, that’s their problem. I’m no longer responsible for their hidden macaronivore tendencies…
Poached Coffee Vanilla Pears with Mocha Macarons
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20+20 minutes
1 litre water
1 vanilla pod, cut lengthways
2 tbsps coffee granules
4 large firm pears
- Boil the sugar with the water, vanilla and coffee in a heavy based casserole dish or saucepan. Once boiling, turn down the heat.
- Peel the pears and cut them in half horizontally. Place them in the syrup and poach them gently with lid on for 20 minutes.
- Drain the pears and set aside.
- Boil up the coffee syrup for about 20 minutes until concentrated and thickened.
I usually place the left over coffee syrup in a jam jar, sealed in the fridge. Over the next few days, just heat it gently and pour over ice cream.
Serve with chocolate-mocha macarons (simply add 2 tbps of granulated coffee to the heating cream while making your classic chocolate ganache. Recipe on page 47 of Mad About Macarons!) Or infuse the bruised seeds from 4 cardamom pods to the coffee poaching liquid, remove, and serve with chocolate, cardamom & ginger macarons (see page 56 of Mad About Macarons!)
Wishing you all a very Healthy Sweet New Year 2012
2012 is filled with love, health, happiness and many delicious Parisian macarons!
As they say in Scotland, “Lang mae yer lum reek!”
(literally translated, long may your chimney smoke – to your good health)
Bonne Année 2012