13 February 2008

Dessert Fiend

I am a sucker for a well-written recipe. I admit it. My geek-factor knows no limits. Yes, I will read a cookbook, cover to cover, just like a novel. The result of years of this behavior is that I don't really need a recipe to construct something, because of the enormous amount of trivia that resides in my head. Want to make a quickbread? (Muffins, cornbread, banana bread & the like) I know the basic formula, and can toss it together with little trouble. Likewise just about anything else. So, sure, there are practical applications to this knowledge.

But I also find that I'm a sucker for the recipes on the back of packages of anything; the oatmeal canister lists recipes for oatmeal cookies, the bag of coconut has macaroon recipes, heck, even the tinned tomatoes I toss in all sorts of things for dinner have suggestions about what to use them for.

Lest we think this is a uniquely Yankee sort of thing, I have to point out that even the Swedish stuff that I buy from IKEA-land's little grocery store (products produced in Sweden, things that are hard to find here, like Vanilj Sas, {vanilla sauce} Nippon Soppa {rose-hip soup} and various other things) have recipes on the back of the boxes. One of my favorite "wow" desserts comes from the back of a box of vanilla sauce, which is perhaps best described to the American palate as a kind of thin vanilla pudding that's used as a sauce for all sort of desserts, notably Swedish Apple Cake.

The instructions were simple, perhaps three lines of Swedish text printed next to a picture of a skinned, baked pear, with the top cut off and almonds spilling out of the hollowed-out center, the little cap balanced rather precariously back on top of the nuts.

"Hollow out and core a pear," it suggested, "and stuff the hollowed space with a mixture of almond, cinnamon, and corn syrup. Bake at 175'C for 15-20 minutes or until the pear is tender. Serve warm, with vanilla sauce."

Simple. Elegant. I first noticed this at about 20 years old, and made it for a family gathering of DH's, back when he was The Boyfriend. DH's brother raved about it, as did almost everyone who tasted it. So I've kept the recipe and pulled it out over the years when I've needed a wow kind of dessert. I've made a few changes, though, feeling as I do these days that corn syrup is right up there next to the teevee laugh track on the scale of evil things on this earth. Honey is a more-than-acceptable substitute, and is even (gasp) good for you.

Shortcuts for this would be to use canned pears, but I must point out that canned pears are canned in heavy syrup 99.99% of the time, and even rinsing the pears does not remove the ridiculous amount of sugar that resides in them after being canned in that nasty stuff. Use fresh pears unless you have no other alternative.


6 ripe pears, peeled, cored, and centers hollowed out, tops cut off and kept for presentation
3/4 to 1 cup almonds or pecans, or a mixture of the two, roughly chopped (the amount needed will depend on how large your pears are)
1/3 to 1/2 cup honey
2 tsp cinnamon
1 packet vanilla sauce (substitute sugar free instant vanilla pudding, thinned out so that it could be poured out of a gravy boat)


Make the vanilla sauce/pudding, and set aside in the refrigerator.

Mix nuts, honey, and cinnamon in a bowl. Spoon into hollowed out pears, overstuffing them. Put the caps back on. Place the pears in a lightly greased 9x13 glass baking dish, and bake at 350'F until the pears are tender. (about 15-20 minutes) For additional flavor, spoon a small amount of honey over each pear during the baking process. Serve warm, with chilled vanilla sauce.

A wee bit of a sugar buzz, just the thing to combat the creeping crud and the blahs. Honestly, though, this is not an unhealthy dessert. A serving is ONE pear, and although nuts are high in fat, you're not getting an overdose of them here. Likewise honey is high in sugar, but again, better for you than refined sugar or *shudder* corn syrup. Since vanilla sauce isn't widely available, using skim milk to make sugar free vanilla pudding, and adding about two tablespoons of it to each pear isn't adding anything miserable either. So relax. Eat one. Savor it.

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