Tuesday, March 6, 2007
A couple of weeks ago I bought 20 lbs of pears for a dollar at the Haymarket (deals like these can often be had early Saturday evenings when inventory is cleared out), and although I usually don't like to cook fruit, this gave me the opportunity to make all kinds of pear recipes. The most amazing recipe is adapted from Michael Recchiuti's Chocolate Obsession. His recipe is called key lime pears, but I didn't have key lime juice so I substituted lemon and lime juice (the little lemon-shaped bottles of Sicilia lemon and lime juice from Trader Joe's are excellent). I also tried a version using pomegranate molasses (the darker chips in the picture below), which also turned out well.
While the original recipe calls for very hard green Bartlett pears, I also tried hard Comice pears. The Comice were softer and thus harder to make into crisp and well-formed chips, but I actually really liked the range of textures that turned out from using pears of different hardness. While the Bartlett pears came out with a texture almost like that of kettle-cooked potato chips, the softer Comice slices turned out like thin films of pear-flavored caramel, which was also delicious. Just remember to soak softer pears for a shorter amount of time (2-4 hours) so they don't completely disintegrate.
This recipe is also the first one in which I've really appreciated a silicon mat. For cookies and such it just seems like an extra thing to watch, but it really comes in handy for these pears, which would stick irrevocably to the pan otherwise. If you don't have a silicon mat, parchment paper works just as well. I rotated use of three cookie sheets so I could always be working on one with two others in the oven.
Who knew that the cross-section of a pear looks like a sand dollar?
2 cups sugar
1 2/3 cups (13 oz) water
8 oz lemon juice
8 oz lime juice
6-10 pears, hard and unripe
For pomegranate chips, replace lemon and lime juice with 2/3 cup pomegranate molasses.
Disolve the sugar in the water over low heat. Cool and transfer to a large, non-metal bowl, and add citrus juice. Using a mandoline, slice the pears and make sure to discard the seeds. Submerge the slices in the syrup immediately after slicing, and soak for 4-10 hours.
Line three cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicon mats. Remove the pear slices and place them closely packed on the cookie sheets without overlap. Bake the pears to the desired brownness and texture, about 30-45 minutes. Long baking times yield a brown, crispy texture, and shorter times yield softer, chewier textures. Remove immediately from the baking mat or parchment sheet and cool. Store in an airtight container.
They will probably keep indefinitely, although they're probably at their best within a few weeks.