17 April 2008

Maple, Salted Butter Caramel, and Pear Belle Hélène

Poire Fondantes et Glace à L'érable et Caramel au Beurre Salé
Maple, Salted Butter Caramel, and Pear Belle Hélène (with title)
(I promise it'll be a long time before I talk about medicine again-- I don't particularly like it actually, it just fits the theme. This is my entry to the "Taste of Yellow" blogging event in support of the Lance Armstrong Foundation.) I'm not sure if they ever warned us about this, but for many health professionals, the time comes that you will start to identify people by their disease. When you look after a ward of 30-100 people at a time (it's a government-owned hospital), I confess it's much easier. What are names, anyway, compared to "the baby who had pancreatic inflammation and was always asleep," "brain tumor guy who swore at everyone," "massive tuberculosis man," etc. Everyone knows who and what you're talking about.

My first patient ever as a young clerk was a breast cancer survivor, but it had returned to her lung. In that moment of stupidity and inexperience that you almost say "It's going to be okay," or something equally frowned upon, you're almost thankful that you're too choked up inside to say it. Through her own tears she said that she's willing to embrace whatever God has in store for her, and she won't ever lose faith. From that point on, there would be no more crying about my own worries, no more feeling sorry for myself. She apparently had faith and strength of spirit enough for the both of us, and I'm glad we met. In return, she kept on dropping my name on her subsequent visits, touting me as the "handsomest, kindest doctor ever" (she never told me that, I just heard it from other people who were wondering what the hell I did for her). Ahem. What can I say, she's quite brilliant.

I encountered the senior officer who helped me do the lung drainage on the patient. "(Patient's name)'s back, and she looked just fine." My senior looked at me like I was an alien and said, "WHO?!" "Oh, you know, the breast cancer patient whose lung we drained," "Oh. That's nice." Many patients you know by disease. Some you know by name. A few you know by heart, and I'm the luckier for it.

I just recently made this very elegant (and very decadent) take on a sundae. Everything works perfectly together-- maple, walnuts, pears, caramel, and salt. Have a treadmill ready.

Poached Pears
I've seen several recipes for pears, some calling for a pinch of saffron in the water, lemons and oranges, vanilla, Sauternes, etc. But I didn't want to lose the other flavors in the ice cream (after all, maple syrup co$t$ so much), so I settled for this simple recipe. If you have very underripe pears, increase the sugar to 300g (1-1/2 cups) and the poaching time to 15-25 minutes, depending on how soft you want the pears. I just wanted them soft enough to melt in your mouth but still stand up on the plate. You can also use canned pears.

  • 4 ripe pears

  • 500mL (2 cups) water

  • 150g (3/4 cup) granulated sugar

  • 6 tablespoons honey

Using a small knife, take the core out through the bottom of the pear. Scour away at the seeds with the tip of the knife, but go no farther and leave the stem of the pear intact. Cut out a corona pattern (as shown in the picture) near the stem and strip away the rest of the peel using a vegetable peeler to retain the shape of the pear as much as possible. In a medium saucepan, combine the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a slow simmer and submerge all the pears (the drop in temperature will make it appear as though cooking has stopped, but don't turn up the heat-- it will start bubbling again in a while). Turn the pears at least once during cooking. I cooked mine for 12 minutes, or 6 minutes a side. Take out the pears into a deep container, then turn up the heat and boil the syrup for 10 minutes to thicken slightly. Pour this over the pears and cool completely. This keeps in the refrigerator for 3 days.

Maple-Walnut Ice Cream adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Leibovitz
  • 375mL (1-1/2 cups) milk

  • 2 tablespoons sugar

  • 375mL (1-1/2 cups) heavy cream

  • 5 large egg yolks

  • 240g (180mL or 3/4 cup) dark amber maple syrup

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 150g (1-1/2 cups) walnuts

Follow the instructions for making the base here, mixing in the maple syrup, salt, and vanilla extract at the end. Shortly before churning the ice cream, preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F) and set a rack on the top shelf. Place the walnuts on an ungreased sheet pan in a single layer and toast them for 12 minutes. Let them cool completely and chop them coarsely until no piece is bigger than a chocolate chip. Churn the ice cream base and add in the walnuts a few minutes before churning is done, or fold them in to the soft ice cream. Transfer to a freezer container and let it ripen for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Salted Butter Caramel Sauce adapted from The Perfect Scoop
If using salted butter, add only half the quantity of salt. If using coarse or high-quality salt (Maldon, kosher, fleur de sel), double the quantity of salt.
  • 45g (3 tbsp) unsalted butter

  • 75g (6 tbsp) sugar

  • 120g (1/2 cup) heavy cream

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Melt the butter over medium heat in a small saucepan. Add the sugar and cook until it starts to smoke and is a deep golden brown. Before this point, the butter may separate, but don't worry. Remove immediately from the heat and quickly add half the cream and whisk it in (keep distance or wear an oven mitt as it will bubble up) until only a few lumps of caramel remain. Stir in the rest of the cream and the salt and whisk until dissolved. Serve warm.

To assemble: Level the bottom of the pear with a sharp knife and set it on a plate. Add a scoop of maple ice cream and drizzle all over with the salted butter caramel.

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