Mini Pear Pies, Oh My!

‘I’m sorry it’s all bought stuff.’ Our friend apologized as she brought round a meal for us. I remember it well – mashed potato, chicken cacciatora, vegetables and then for dessert…chocolate pear pie. All from Marks and Spencer. I appreciated every bite, there was no need for an apology – and discovered that chocolate and pears are a match made in heaven. That was almost nineteen years ago (!) after I’d had my first baby, who, incidentally, went off to college this week.

That dessert has lived in my memory. Some just do, like the Caramel Apple Granny (apple tart with a layer or caramel and crumble, topped with double cream) we ate outside a little coffee shop in Middleham, North Yorkshire, on holiday with my sister and brother-in-law about fourteen years ago. Boxing Day fruit salad with my family or my first taste of Banoffee Pie. Food attached to happy memories.

Back to pears and this week’s Great British Bake Off technical challenge. I considered not doing this one. The week has been busy enough with getting everyone back to school and moving oldest one out. All the way through the programme I kept saying, ‘I’m not doing this one,’ until Tim said he’d like it. Darn! I had to try it, but it had to wait until Friday afternoon and I had time to make a curry and this dessert to celebrate the end of the week.

Mini pear pies – probably the most bizarre dessert I have ever made. I knew that pastry week could be tricky. For those who haven’t watched the programme, the bakers made custard tarts for their Signature bakes, at least three tiered pie creations for their Showstoppers, containing all kinds of sweet and savoury fillings and then the pear pies for the technical. There was a little less drama this week – no one threw their bake in the bin…

The pear pies are poached whole peeled pears which are then wrapped in puff pastry and then baked. The poaching syrup smells like christmas as it contains orange zest and cinnamon sticks along with the white wine and sugar. One daughter asked what the lovely smell was, another asked what smelled so disgusting. It’s impossible to please everyone.

We’re not great fans of poached fruit in this house. I tried a recipe for poached spiced fruit a while ago and wrote across the page, ‘No one liked this!’ It tasted like perfume. Why do that to fruit that tastes great by itself anyway?! The syrup in this recipe smelled and tasted much better, thankfully.

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Rough puff pastry was so straightforward to make I’ll be doing it again. The only problem today was that it was very hot and humid making the pastry difficult to work with, kind of melty. Wrapping fruit in pastry like this is fiddly work anyway. Having learned from the bakers I left the pears to cool completely before I attempted it. I’m relieved to say that the pastry stayed on the pears and didn’t slide off to the bottom.

I couldn’t resist adding a bit of chocolate sauce. I’m not sure if Paul Hollywood would approve, but we did. I’m still after the taste of that Marks and Spencer tart – and let’s be honest a tart would be far less of a palaver. The end result for these mini pear pies is pretty, but I doubt I’ll be in a rush to repeat them. I’ll stick with Nigella’s Chocolate Pear Pudding, my stand-by when I have a craving for pears and chocolate…

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