You know how sometimes you want to really impress your guests with a very special, not “only” delicious but also beautiful-looking dessert? If you are willing to put in a little bit of effort, a Pear Charlotte will definitely deliver the wow factor, as well as the “deliciousness”. AND, drum rolls, it must be made in advance, so no last minute stress!!
This classic French dessert often comes with a “creme bavaroise” filling (it includes eggs and is quite rich) but this recipe from Daniel Boulud (Elle Decor, November 2015) calls for gelatin and makes for a slightly lighter if not completely dietetic filling .Try it and you’ll be smitten! (Note that the author suggests using canned pears or other fruit if you do not have the time or inclination to poach the pears!! Another time-saving tip!!)
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise pods Zest and juice of 1 lemon
½ cup maple syrup
¼ cup honey
1 cup sugar
2 cups water
7 Bartlett pears
1 T unsalted butter Salt
4 sheets gelatin or two ¼-oz. packets
1 package ladyfingers (24 pieces)
1 ½ cups heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Line a charlotte mold with plastic wrap so that the bottom and sides are covered.
In a medium saucepan, bring to a boil the cinnamon sticks, star anise, lemon juice and zest, maple syrup, honey, sugar, and water. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the syrup from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Set aside ¼ cup of syrup.
Transfer the remaining syrup to a large shallow baking dish. Peel, quarter, and core four of the pears and slice them thinly (about ¼ inch thick). Immediately transfer the slices to the baking dish and mix them with the syrup to prevent oxidation. Cover the dish and place in the oven to poach the pear slices for about 15 minutes.
Peel, quarter, and core the remaining three pears and roughly chop into small chunks. In a medium saucepan, combine the pear chunks with the butter, a pinch of salt, and the reserved ¼ cup of syrup;
set the saucepan over medium heat, cover, and cook for 15 minutes, or until the pear mashes easily with a spoon. Use a handheld immersion blender to puree until smooth.
Bloom the gelatin in a small bowl of cold water and add it to the pear puree; mix well and transfer to a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for about 45 minutes.
Remove the poached pears from the oven and let them cool slightly in the syrup. Using a slotted spoon, gently transfer the pears onto a plate lined with paper towels. Quickly dip the ladyfingers in the syrup and set them aside; they will slowly absorb the syrup.
In an electric mixer fitted with a whisk, whip the cream to stiff peaks,
then, using a spatula, gently fold the pear puree into the whipped cream;
do not overmix.
To assemble the pear charlotte, line the walls of the charlotte mold with the syrup-soaked ladyfingers, arranging them vertically side by side. Pour half of the pear-cream mixture into the charlotte, then add a double layer of sliced pears. Pour in the remaining pear-cream mixture. Lay four more ladyfingers across the top and trim the four remaining ladyfingers to fill in gaps so that the top (which will be the base of the charlotte once inverted) is covered. Place in the refrigerator for at least four hours to set completely. To serve, unmold the charlotte onto a plate and arrange the remaining pear slices on top in a circular pattern.