Mini Manqué Pear Cakes with Black Grape Compote

“There are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Yesterday was a day I needed to bake. The morning wasn’t kind to me. Got up and the computer screen was dead as dead can be. Woke up the daughter and she was rather rude for something trivial … very uncalled for!! Then she decided not to have the breakfast I made. I had about lost it, but DH stepped in, flashed a big smile, ate her breakfast…and told me to relax! So my pent up anger was redirected to the kitchen, and it was time to bake. Hit the kitchen in a fury… made walnuts, dried cranberry and dark chococolate chip scones, made peanut butter, made some curry for lunch… and then made these charming little pear cakes!
These pears had been staring at me for days. They were handsome, had a lovely yellow hue to them, but that’s just where the story ended. They were very crisp but lacked sweet fruity flavour. Sometimes fruit can be so deceptive. You come home thinking, yes, what a good deal I got, and then sigh, it’s time to bake them into something. Thank heavens for the fabulous marriage fruit and baking make, something I discovered just a clutch of years ago. 
Have been attracted to ‘pear’ posts like a bee to honey the whole of this week. Each time I saw pear in my reader, there I was. Alongside, I was browsing for a kumquat chutney to use up some tangerines, and I was led to this beautiful blog Citrus & Vanille. 2 stones with 1 bird! Found a great sounding kumquat chutney which I could use tangerines in, and further browsing led me to these Mini Manqué Pear Cakes, not quite sure what  manqué was, but I liked the sound of the word. Had a nice ring to it!! I was so making them! A tweet from my virtual French lexicon Hilda, got me my answer.
Moule-à-Manqué, Origin: French,  A cake tin with sloping sides, producing a cake that has a wider base than top… 
LOVELY! I love the name!!
I settled for this recipe because it has whole wheat flour and some chestnut flour too. I do have a small sack of chestnut flour stashed away that Jamie got me, but that is for ‘something’ else! So substitution was the call again, and some almond flour went in. Not saving it for macs as I have failed 3 times very recently. Maybe I need a break, then shall make fresh almond flour! I loved these manqués because they had a nice mix of healthy whole grain flors and  turned out to be ever so versatile. I made them in the morning, and just reheated them before serving with 1 teaspoon of whipped unsweetened mascarpone cream, and black grape compote. SUBLIME!! The kids loved them! Much in line with my Ten in 10 commitment too!!
A dessert which is wholesome, has fruit, just 1 tsp of homemade mascarpone on top … and is still given a high five!! YES!! What could be better. The cake had a nice velvety, nutty texture, and surprisingly enough, the pears retained some crsipness too! I love the meeting of textures and flavours. Just amazing how satisfying dessert can get!! I think this recipe might work well with apples and walnuts/raisins too.

Mini Manqué Pear Cakes with Black Grape Compote
adapted from Citron and Vanille
Makes 8-10 individual cakes
Ingredients
3 pears, peeled and sliced
70 g butter, melted
30gms clarified butter
3 eggs
70 g whole wheat flour
50 g almond meal
130 g white flour
100g light brown sugar
4 tbs light cream cream
11/2 tsp baking powder
11/2 tsp vanilla extract
Mascarpone cream and compote to serve

Method:

In a mixing container, beat butters and sugar until smooth. Add cream, then add eggs, flours, vanilla extract, cream and baking powder progressively.
Butter individual deep molds (like ramekins) or if you have silicon molds, even better. I put litle rounds of parchment paper in the bases…just in case! If you don’t have any individual molds, you can also use a larger deep dish one.
Place the pear slices nicely at the bottom of each ramekin, followed by a sprinkling of dried grapes, and then divide the batter equally between each of them.
Cook in a pre-heated oven at 180C for about 30 minutes. Let it cool for about 10 minutes, and unmold.

Black Grape Compote
Makes about 1/2 cup
Ingredients:
1/2 cup dried black grapes
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup rum or orange juice
1/4 – 1/2 cup water
1-2 tbsps balsamic vinegar

Method:

Place all ingredients in a heavy bottom pan, and simmer for 15-20 minutes till it all comes together in a nice thick compote. Adjust sugar/vinegar if required. Take off heat and transfer to serving container. It will continue to thicken as it stands. You can serve it warm or cold.
To serve 
Place warm pear manqué on a platter, top with a tablespoon of whipped unsweetend mascarpone cream, followed by a tablespoon of compote.
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PEAR TART WITH ALMOND CREAM…

“And with Yeats you lean against a broken pear tree,
the day hooded by low clouds.”
~William Collins

The last week has gone in some kind of daze with the kids home all the time because of an Autumn break. (Autumn never actually got here by the way). Then it was time for the 13 year old to leave on her annual camping trip to the foothills of the Himalayas, so we spent 2 days shopping for unnecessary items of little or no consequence. I shall attempt to share some pictures with you when she gets back if they are scenic and ‘shareable’. Teen pictures have a different flavour altogether, or so I have learnt, with weird angles and are very people centric!!
Also got truly bitten by many ‘blocks’ - baking block, writers block, bloggers block…and twitter block over the past few days. My good friend Peter @ Kalofogas managed to tempt me ‘out of the gutter’ on hump day and sorta dragged me back on my feet. Ilva and I discovered we were on the same boat…you know what we mean. Last night I was in the dumps, and so was she. She suggested on twitter that we get back some kind of mac thingy going again to boost our flailing spirits to get our happy mojo back! Good idea…In the midst of this involved discussion, just as I thought I had peace at home, the boy began whining with unbearable growing pains again. I hurriedly abandoned the computer & rushed to his rescue…which might explain the first few comments on my ‘wordless Wednesday’ post. (Thank you Manggy for always hitting the nail on the head…ouch). Yes, I stand guilty of pressing the wrong button, and publishing the post sans ‘words’. Left some candy out on my blog at night for my friends (‘they’ know what I’m talking about), almost kicked myself this morning. Was suitably embarrassed! But oh well, it gave me something to write about huh? Wednesday has gained new significance and a sense of identity since yesterday. Coincidentally, I pressed the button on Wordless Wednesday with a wordless post! Hmmm…
  • Hump day makes more sense…a reference to making it through to the middle of the work week as getting “over the hump.” on Wednesday.
  • In the folk rhyme, “Wednesday’s child is full of woe”.
  • In Richard Brautigan’s In Watermelon Sugar Wednesday is the day when the sun shines grey.
  • In the 1945 John Steinbeck novel Sweet Thursday, the titular day is preceded by “Lousy Wednesday“.

Happy October. We should be leaping off rooftops enjoying some good fall weather, cool air etc, but it isn’t happening. Global warming at it’s worst and we still suffer from temperatures as high as 37C. Very summer weather but no stone fruit. Unseasonal for this time of the year; the only saving grace is that pears and apples are here! So here is a Pear Tart with an Almond Cream that I made a few days ago with the seasons first bounty of pears. I mixed up a few recipes for a tart from here and there because all I wanted was to make a beautiful frangipane based pear tart but didn’t want to use butter in the almond cream. This came out beautifully, even though I misjudged the size of the tart pan, and used one an inch bigger than I should have. Perils of collecting too many tart pans when one standard size will do! Sigh… anyway, I managed to cut out the butter from the almond cream, and substitute it with single cream (25% fat) which is all we get here locally, and it worked out well. Ideally I would have liked to have the fanned pears peeping out beautifully, but they kind of disappeared under the cream because of the tart pan size. However, the tart was delicious, full of all things good, so I had to share it!

Pear Tart with Almond Cream
Ingredients:
4 small medium firm pears
1 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
1 1/2 cups water (approx)
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup whole almonds; ground with skins
200ml single cream
1/2 tsp almond essence
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp vanilla sugar
1 1/2 tbsp flour
For the pastry
5 oz plain flour
1/8 tsp salt
4 oz cold unsalted butter, frozen
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
1 tbsp fresh lime/lemon juice
For the pastry:
Put the flour & salt into the bowl of a food processor & blend briefly. Grate in the cold butter & blend till a breadcrumb like mixture forms.
Add beaten egg yolk & lime juice, and pulse till it comes together to form a ball. Wrap in cling wrap & chill for 30 minutes.
For the pears:
Take about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of water & 1 cup of sugar. Scrape 1/2 a vanilla bean into it, and bring to a simmering boil. Use a pan size good enough to submerge the pear halves.
Peel and 1/2 the pears, and put in pan with sugar syrup. Poach on simmer till just done, but firm. Leave to cool in syrup, and then drain well. Reserve syrup for other uses like a base for lemonade or fresh lime-ginger juice, or thicken further to use as ice-cream sauce. It is delicious. Thick syrup also makes a good garnish for plated desserts.
Assembling tart:
Preheat the oven to 200C.
Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to 1/8″ thickness, enough to line the tart pan.(I used a slightly large tin in error since I was experimenting, so I lost out on volume)
Transfer to an 8″ tart dish and trim.
Stand cooled, poached pears on paper towels for 1 minute. Remove the core with a melon baller. Slice each half thinly crosswise, keeping in shape and fanning them out slightly.
Transfer to the tart with the help of a metal spatula, and place on bottom of tart pan, arranging like spokes of wheels.
Whisk the egg, yolk, cream, almond extract and vanilla extract well with the ground almonds, and ladle over the pears. Sprinkle with the sugar.
Bake for 10 minutes, reduce the temperature to 180C, and bake till the almond cream has set and the pears begin to caramelise, about 20 minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature. This is nice served with additional chilled poached pears, whipped unsweetened cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
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DARK CHOCOLATE, RICOTTA & GINGER TARTLETS with Poached Pears…& the Paper Chef #44 winner

“One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure…”
William Feather

What spells Fall? Longer nights and shorter days. Leaves just about beginning to change colour. More serious food choices coming forth.

Hola… September’s here, and with it Fall / Autumn in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere. Adios to the lightness that spelt summer. Stone fruits have been pipped by pip fruits, and the seasons first apples and pears are beginning to creep in. We’ve sadly said goodbye to the last of the stone fruits, plums were the last to go. There was a time that my heart sank when the mango season ended. That was 2 years ago…

Now, thankfully, with fruit having established a rather significant and central role in my baking, I actually look forward to a change in season. New boundaries to be crossed, new fruit to be experimented with… so much to look forward to. In addition, being on Twitter throws up endless banter, involved discussions, much more creativity & a new meeting ground.

When Ilva of Lucullian Delights asked if I was OK to be a judge on Paper Chef as a one off, I said YES! Didn’t know what it was all about, but heck, you don’t get called to be a judge everyday. LOL! If you are trying to figure out what I’m talking about, check my post here, and also check out the Paper Chef blog here. It’s a great creative culinary contest and is meant to be fun. Once I chose my ingredients, I felt very inspired to try something my self, so what if I can’t judge myself he he!

As judge, I got to choose 3 regular ingredients and a 4th one, which could be exotic, outlandish or theme based, whatever. I would have loved to go with outlandish, but with fall just stepping in, I chose to go with a theme. I thought FALL! Think fall, think deep serious cooking again. Warm and richer flavours, spicy aromas, hearty food, filled plates. Cinnamon, ginger, pumpkin, pie spices, roasts, steamy coffee, soups…

Before I take you to my recipe, I first need to pick a WINNER from the delicious entries our Paper Chef #44 got in this month. Judging is never an easy task, & this was no exception. I am always amazed at the creativity that a handful of ingredients can draw out of food bloggers. My ingredients of choice were Ricotta, Ginger, Dark Chocolate…& any other fourth item that spelt Fall! The entries for this episode of Paper Chef are inventive, creative and exciting. You can see in the round-up here. Makes one think out of the box… immense creativity and endless possibilities… Was tough to choose between so many favourites that were calling my name, each one of them very very special. I had to make the difficult choice, and eventually picked Ginger, Ricotta & Pumpkin Wontons from Ri @ Musings RI, a savoury entry to this round of PC. Creative, enticing & an early call to fall with roasted pumpkin making the 4th ingredient. Ri roasted the pumpkins herself, and even used the pumpkin seeds. Chocolate entered the dish by way of an intriguing chocolate-balsamic dipping sauce. As Ilva mentioned on her round-up, these are certainly ‘incredible‘. A creative & delicious result !! Congratulations Ri, I hand this round of Paper Chef to you. Well done indeed. Thank you Ilva, for giving me this rare opportunity to play judge. I enjoyed it immensely; it’s been a huge learning experience. Thank you also to all the wonderful bloggers who participated in Paper Chef #44, and played with my ingredients of choice. I am completely taken in by your creativity.
Even though I couldn’t be judged, I was truly inspired. I love the idea of Ready Steady Cook, Iron Chef etc, & the Paper Chef event was certainly fun. Went along this preparation without much prior thought, and thankfully the dessert worked out well. The kids lapped it up happily, & were ready for seconds (which they didn’t get!). The hub loved it too, though he felt it was tad heavy. I think hub has yet to make the transition from fresh & light summer, to earthy, deep autumn. One thing I might change the next time is reduce the ricotta slightly (bring it down to about 250gms), and whip the cream separately before I fold it in. Pumpkin puree with pie spice instead of chocolate might work some magic in here too, who knows?
Dark Chocolate, Ricotta & Ginger Tartlets with Poached Pears
My recipe with Paper Chef #44 ingredients
Biscuit Base
Ingredients:
150gm digestive biscuits
1/4 cup clarified butter (or softened butter)
1/8 cup crystallised ginger
Method:
Run the biscuits & ginger in the food processor till like fine meal. Add the clarified butter & whiz again till it starts clumping.
Line some dessert rings or/and squares with parchment paper, & place on a tray lined with parchment paper.
Put about 1/8 cup of biscuit crumb mix into each, divided equally among the 8 rings, & press down to flatten into a base. I used a pestle.
Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees for 10 minutes. take out & cool on tray .

Ricotta chocolate filling
350-300 gms ricotta (I made mine out of 1.5 litres of whole milk/recipe here); drain excess whey for 30minutes
100gms dark chocolate at room temperature
6-8 slices of crystallised ginger
200ml low fat cream
1-2 tbsps of vanilla sugar if required

Method:
Blend the warm ricotta, ginger & dark chocolate in the processor till thick & mousse like. The warmth from the ricotta should melt the chocolate.
Add the cream and whisk again. Taste and adjust sugar if required. I added 1 tbsp of sugar. Blend briefly. You should get a little more than 2 cups of mixture.
Pour over the cooled biscuit bases, with the rings/squares still in place. Chill for 4-5 hours. Serve with chilled poached pears, drizzled with syrup.

Poached Pears in Ginger/Vanilla syrup
Ingredients:
3 small firm, ripe pears, cored cut into 6 slices each
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/2 vanilla bean
1″ piece crushed ginger
Method:
Put all the ingredients in a heavy bottom pan & simmer for 15-20 minutes till pears are tender. Cool a bit. Remove pears to platter lined with kitchen towels to drain & cool completely. Chill until needed.
Reduce the syrup on medium heat until it is a thick & syrupy liquid. Reserve to spoon over tartlets just before serving. Can be used as an ice-cream sauce etc.

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