It appears that I’m not the only person out there who enjoys a bit of a sensory challenge. Talking to a colleague of mine at work (well, whining about the bitter bitter cold today in Melbourne is closer to the truth), she noted how one of her absolute favourite things to do in winter was to turn the heater up to blasting, wrap herself in a big blanket, and demolish a bowl of ice cream.
Geezus, and I thought I was strange!
(If you are reading this, my dear, don’t worry – you’re still fabulous and I adore you. I just think you’re a nutter as well!)
When I received a surprise email from IMPACT Communications last week advising that they had sent me a box of Williams’ and Packham’s Triumph pears, the thoughts that came to mind were in the following order:
- How the devil did they get my address? I can’t remember ever working with them before??
- PEARS! I LOVE PEARS! Sure, I’ve already got about 3kg of Williams’ pears in my fridge, but who cares! Can you ever have too much of a good thing?
- Actually, yes you can. Remember when you made yourself sick by eating almost nothing but mangoes for 3 days straight a few years ago?
- Okay – seriously now – how the bloody hell did they get my address?!?
- OH MY GOD! I AM BEING STALKED BY PR COMPANIES ON THE INTERWEBS!
- What the crud am I going to DO with these pears? Why do I need to do anything? Pears are awesome on their own!
- YAY! PEARS!
And all those thoughts proceeded to race through my mind in the space of about 15 seconds. Thinking about it now, it’s actually pretty amazing that I’ve managed to keep this blog going for 5 years when you consider the fact that I have the attention span of a meerkat crossed with a goldfish…
(Apparently it’s quite amusing to witness when I suddenly race off whilst halfway through a sentence in the middle of a conversation because I’ve spotted a fluffy dog that I can snorgle on the other side of the street)
Okay, so where was I?
That’s right. Pears.
I do tend to enjoy my fruit raw and without any sort of cooking, but after enjoying a delectable roasted pear, walnut and brie salad at a cafe a few months ago, I had it in mind that I’d love to do something with roasted pears myself. Team that with my current obsession with my relatively new ice cream maker, and making a roasted pear ice cream seemed to make perfect sense!
I toyed very briefly with the idea of a roasted pear, walnut and brie ice cream…but decided that there had to some limits to the absurdity that I was willing to pursue and set it aside pretty quickly. But hey – there’s an idea for you if you’re so inclined!
Myself, I decided to go with some autumn flavours and pair the pear (hehehe) with some wonderfully fragrant cinnamon that I had lying around, as well as some pecans that I happened to pick up the other week.
And then I decided to up the ante and turn the pecans into praline. This later almost resulted in tears when I came THIS close to spilling a pot of boiling, furiously bubbling caramel all over myself as I tore around the kitchen with it in hand. Thankfully, I managed not to trip and can now proudly say that I am writing this sans sugar burns.
Which takes me to my next aside – darling readers, please do not follow my example and run around the kitchen with a pot of boiling sugar. It is Not. Very. Clever.
While I’m no expert on making ice cream, I can without a doubt say that this is the most incredible ice cream that I’ve made to date! Using a simple cream/milk base instead of a custard means it is much lighter and has a cleaner mouthfeel than custard-based ice creams, and the awesome pairing of roasted pears, cinnamon and CANDIED PECANS brought me closer to a taste-gasm than any ice cream that I’ve had to date.
While some of you may curse the fact that I am rubbing the awesomeness of my latest kitchen creation all over your collective faces, the darlings over at Kitchenware Direct (being the enablers of kitchen gadget-obsession) have offered to give one of my Australian readers their very own ice cream maker.
Entry into the competition is easy enough – all you need to do is make a dish that reminds you of Easter or autumn, then blog it (if you have a blog) or take a photo and email the recipe to me if you’re not one of the blogging hordes
If you don’t have an ice cream maker and are sitting there, reading this and pining for some of your own home-made ice cream…well, if you don’t enter a dish into this competition then you really have nobody to blame but yourself
Roasted pear, cinnamon & pecan praline ice cream
3-4 large ripe pears, something with a creamy texture like Williams rather than Nashi
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup full cream milk
1 cinnamon stick
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed firmly
1 cup roughly chopped pecan praline (or plain toasted pecans if you prefer)
Pecan praline ingredients
1 cup toasted pecans
1 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp liquid glucose **
** The liquid glucose is not necessary, but it’s something that I’ve always used as a fail-safe against caramel becoming crystallized after cooking. It’s available at most supermarkets in the baking goods aisle, but you can substitute it with corn syrup, malt syrup or just exclude it entirely.
1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C. Trim your pears, then peel them, cut them into quarters and cut off the cores.
2. Line them on a baking tray with the inner side up and bake for approximately 1 hour, or till a knife can be inserted into the thickest segment with no resistance. Set aside and allow the roasted pears to cool.
3. While the pears are roasting, combine the milk with the brown sugar and cinnamon in a pot and stir over a low heat till the sugar is completely dissolved. When the sugar has dissolved, set the mixture aside for 30 minutes to allow the cinnamon to infuse (if your cinnamon is very fresh and pungent, you can probably cut this time by half).
Once the roasted pears are cool, gently mash them with a fork – large pear chunks will freeze and become icy in the mixture, so the aim is to get the pieces small enough so that they won’t form solid frozen chunks in the ice cream, but still provide concentrated bursts of pear flavour and texture.
4. Add the mashed pear to the cream and stir thoroughly to combine. Place the mixture in the fridge for at least 1 hour or till chilled, then pour into your ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s directions. Once the mixture begins to transform from liquid to ice cream, add your pecan praline (or plain toasted and chopped pecans) to the machine and allow it to churn in.
Once that’s done, you can either enjoy it as soft serve or place it into a container and into the freezer for decadent pleasure later!
5. TO MAKE THE PECAN PRALINE: Place the sugar, water and (if you’re using it) the liquid glucose into a small pan. Over a medium flame, melt the sugar till it is dissolved (DO NOT STIR IT), giving the pan an occasional swirl to even out the mixture. Once the caramel begins to take on a pale yellow colour, tip in the nuts and swirl till the caramel is a amber – you want it close to bitter but not actually burnt!
Once the toffee is ready, you can pick out the nuts and place them on a baking tray lined with good-quality non-stick baking paper, or just pour the lot out as a sheet. You can enjoy the candied nuts as is, but to make the praline you need to stick the toffee into a food processor and blitz till it’s roughly chopped (but not powdered).
So here are the details for the competition to win your very own ice cream maker again!
If you’re a blogger who is based in Australia and want to take part, all you need to do is:
- Blog your ‘Easter’ dish (nope, it doesn’t have to be a recipe you’ve created, just anything that makes you think of Easter…sorta!)
- Provide a link back to this blog post
- Email me with a link to your post
To non-blogging readers out there in Australia, it’s pretty much the same deal!
- Make your ‘Easter’ dish (it can be as loosely related to Easter as you like! See my example!)
- Email me a photo, the name of the dish and why it reminds you of this time of year
To double your chances of winning the gadget, all you have to do is retweet the link to the previous post (some clarification – this will only double your chances if you also submit a dish. Retweeting the post itself without entering a dish does not give you an entry to the random draw!)
The draw closes at midnight on Monday 18th April, so what are you waiting for? Go on and get cracking for your chance to be making your own ice cream for Easter!