Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Poires Babette...Pear Custard Gratin

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My love of pear desserts knows no bounds, so I am constantly on the prowl for new recipes to add to my repertoire. This morning, I came upon a marvelous dessert that I had made a long ago from a book that, unfortunately, is out of print--- The Cuisine of Normandy by Princess Marie Blanche de Broglie.  I think she still has her marvelous cooking school in Paris where, since 1975, she has been offering food-lovers the world-over the opportunity to discover French gastronomy and the art of entertaining, à la Française, in a traditional way that is adaptable to modern living.

In the early 70's she met Julia Child and one of her co-authors, Simone Beck, through a mutual friend.  Having graduated with the Grand Diplôme from the Cordon Bleu during the time when Madame Brassart (the same dreaded lady encountered by Julia Child in the 1950s) was head of the Cordon Bleu school, de Broglie was just getting launched on a culinary career of her own in Paris. She was introduced by columnist Suzanne Patterson, whom she had previously met at  house party near Antibes given by Marie-Blanche's uncle, Prince Louis de Polignac, first cousin of Ranier of Monaco.    She and Julia Child certainly had a lot in common and became good friends.  As Julia always encouraged cooking enthusiasts and professionals, she warmly encouraged Marie-Blanche - fluent in English - to expand her relationships and courses right into the U.S, an idea she seized on joyously. De Broglie was also thrilled to have a preface on her book The Cuisine of Normandy (1984) written by Simone Beck, the great cooking teacher whose roots were in Normandy and the rich produce and cuisine there.

If you have never been to Normandy or had its cuisine, you are in for a treat.  This is the land of apples and cider, luscious pears, butter and cream, Calvados, the famous chickens from Bresse, and all those rich buttery things that should make us fat but somehow don't when you live there.  Marvelous seafood as well as lamb.  We once rented a house in Normandy for two weeks and loved it.  Remember the post on Barfleur and the Moules Mariniere? 

This recipe is fairly light by Norman standards - no heavy cream or tons of butter.  So go for it!

Serves 6

1 C sugar
3 C water
3 to 4 pears
2 C milk
1/3 C plus 1 TB sugar
6 egg yolks
2 TB flour
2 TB rum or pear brandy
2 TB ground almonds
5 to 6 macaroons crushed (2/3 Cup)*
Powdered sugar (for garnish)


To poach the pears, heat the sugar and water in a large saucepan. Peel, halve and core the pears and immerse them in the syrup.  Simmer for 12 to 15 minutes or until just tender.  Cool them in the syrup.

Bring the milk to a boil with 1 TB sugar and remove it from the heat.  Meanwhile, beat egg yolks and remaining sugar with flour in another saucepan until they are thick and lighter in color.  Pour the hot milk slowly over the mixture, stirring constantly.  Return the mixture to heat, bring it to a boil and cook stirring, 1 minute.  Remove the custard from the heat and flavor it to taste with the pear brandy or rum and ground almonds. 

Spread a thin layer of custard in a buttered ovenproof dish, top with a layer of sliced pears, and sprinkle the pears with macaroon crumbs.  Continue in this fashion forming 2 or 3 layers, ending with a layer of custard sprinkled heavily with macaroon crumbs.  (you may prepare the dessert a few hours ahead to this point).

When you are ready to serve, dust the top with powdered sugar and heat the custard in a preheated 350 degree oven for approximately 8 to 10 minutes, until hot and bubbly.  Then run under the broiler to brown the top.  Serve hot or warm.

*I use almond macaroons or amaretti cookies which you can buy or make.

1 comment:

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