You may find yourself asking what happens when you wrap a shoelace around a pear and put it in the oven. Or, if you’re a true baker, what happens when that shoelace is made out of flour and butter and the pear is covered in festive goo? Well, don’t despair I too was plagued with that age-old question and one Sunday afternoon I took it upon myself to find out.
To be honest I was actually really looking forward to this bake. I am not the best at pastry and I am really enjoying learning all the different types. This would be my first foray into a rough puff (I am trusting you all to read that as “ruoff poff” a la Paul Hollywood). The whole rough puff thing started out very similar to the crust I make for quiche. Which hours of watching bake-off has lead me to believe is a shortcrust dough. Both recipes call for grating some butter and lard into flour and then mixing in water. It is at this point that the rough puff takes a sharp turn into flake town and leaves the shortcrust to crumble on its own. And by that I mean you have to fold the dough a bunch.
The grating and mixing went well until I put in way too much water. I had halved the recipe for the dry ingredients and then confidently put in the full amount of water. Puff paste. I quickly pretended this wasn’t the zillionth I had done something like that and got back to work. Much better result.
Rolling out the dough went very well and I felt so proper and experienced when I got to do my first folds. Are we going to do a book fold or simple fold? I can talk the talk now I must walk the walk. Turns out Paul favours the simple fold for this recipe. I recalled all my envelop stuffing experience and made my first folds.
That’s it? I had this in the bag. While I put my pastry in to chill I got to work on my pears.
The recipe doesn’t specify the type of pear to use beyond firm. It being pear season I bought my favourite type of pears, Bartlett, and thought nothing of it. And in my defence, they were firm when I bought them. Although by the time I was ready to bake the pies they were past their prime. I peeled them to within an inch of their lives and you could hardly tell were less than firm.
For my poaching liquid, I took some creative liberties, as I have been known to do. In place of the white wine, I used some triple sec and a bit of amaretto. And I used ground cinnamon instead of real sticks. Spoiler alert it was incredible! Poaching the pears was interesting. I hadn’t had a chance to rewatch the episode before attempting the recipe so I couldn’t remember any poaching tips or tricks. You would be surprised how many questions one can have while poaching. Do I cover the pot? The pears weren’t submerged, should I have used a smaller pot? Should I rotate the pears so each side is exposed to the liquid? How can you tell when an already soft pear is poached? In the end, I dithered about moving my pears, covering and uncovering the pot and took them out after 15 minutes.
Thankfully they were poaching in liquid gold so it couldn’t be all bad. I might have taken the reducing a bit too seriously turning the liquid into something resembling alcoholic honey but my god I could have eaten it with a spoon.
All throughout the poaching/reducing dance, I was also folding and turning my dough like a boss. After all four of the folds I had a much-changed dough.
It was a lot smoother and just crying out to be chopped into shoelaces and wrapped around a pear. I coated my pears in delicious goo that did not want to stay on the pear but rather prefered to puddle around the bottom and began wrapping. The pastry went on pretty well but I had some trouble with connecting my individual strands. In retrospect, I would suggest you actually roll the dough to the dimensions in the recipes. Novel concept, I know. Once I had mummified my pears I made a leaf for each pear.
My pair of pears went into the oven to meet their fate. I also put a scrap of pastry in to see if I could sneak a peek at any puff while they baked. I was not disappointed. We had major puffage. The only problem was that all the syrup seemed to have oozed off the pears and onto the pan only to burn to a crisp. This meant my beautiful puff had a black bottom, but who even notices when you are busy counting all those layers.
I mean Paul obviously would but no normal person, right? My pears did not fare so well. The pastry was making a run for it. It was sliding ever so gently down those slippery pears. And my beautiful leaves? By the time the pears came out of the oven the leaves were nowhere to be found.
As I’ve proven time and again I often leave something to be desired when it comes to presentation. But what I lack in looks I make up for in flavour. They weren’t lookers but they tasted delicious. It was like eating fall, the cinnamon reminded me of apple pie but the orange zest and triple sec took it to a new level. I would totally make these again. Now I know to roll the pastry out longer and chill the whole things in the fridge before baking. Way to go, Paul, a seasonal dessert that I cleverly styled to look like a mummy rising from the dead for Halloween. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!