Sunday, October 21, 2007

Recipe of the week from The Spice Cookbook: Pear and Apple Betty

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This may not be a very original choice, but I am posting from my parents’ house where I'm spending the weekend. I needed to find a dish my mother could eat. She requested a dessert, but she’s on a low oxalate diet which means she’s not allowed, among other things, to eat citrus zest or anything with orange juice in it, and it seems most of the dessert recipes in the book contain some (this one does too, but in such a small amount that it will be okay to leave it out). It also needed to be something that was fairly quick and easy to assemble, so I chose this.

3 firm ripe fresh pears
3 tart fresh apples

1 cup lightly crumbed corn flakes
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp lemon zest (I will either leave it out or substitute with a dash of lemon juice)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbs butter

Wash, pare and slice the fruit. Arrange 1/4 of the slices in a buttered 1 litre (1 quart) baking dish. Combine the remaining ingredients - except the butter - and sprinkle 1/4 of this over the fruit slices. Dot with 1/2 tbs butter. Repeat until you have 4 layers.

Bake at 175°C (350°F) for 60 to 90 minutes or until fruit is tender.

Serve with whipped cream, sour cream or hard sauce*.

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*Brandy hard sauce:
We will be having whipped cream with the Betty, but since hard sauce is suggested, I decided to include a recipe.

There are 3 recipes for hard sauce in the book – I have chosen to show the one I would serve to my mother, taking into account that she’s not supposed to eat citrus zest, which is an ingredient in the other two recipes.

2/3 cup (1 1/3 sticks) butter
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar
2 tbs brandy
Ground nutmeg

Mix butter and nutmeg together and add alternating dashes of brandy and sugar, stirring well in between, until all the brandy and sugar has been added. Mix until fluffy and serve over plum puddings or warm fruit desserts. Garnish with additional nutmeg.


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Just looking at the three average apples and three large pears I bought made it clear that using all those fruit would be enough dessert for 8-10 persons, so I cut the recipe down by half. The apples were very tart, like lemons in fact, so that did away with the need for the lemon zest that I wasn’t going to use anyway.
Since the apples were so tart, I used one apple and two pears. If I had been able to get tart yellow apples, which are not as mouth-puckering as green ones, I would have used 1 1/2 of each.

Half the recipe of crumble mix didn’t look like enough, so I made a full recipe, which turned out to be just right. A full recipe of butter was clearly too little, so I used a bit more, perhaps 3-4 tbs.

One problem I had was that the pear slices were almost overcooked when the apple slices were still too hard, so it is necessary to make sure that the fruit are at about the same stage of ripeness.

Review and notes:
Apple Betty is a classic dessert, and for a good reason. It is delicious and a beginner cook would find it difficult to mess up. Making it with the addition of pears is a lovely variation on the classic recipe. The different flavours of the very tart apples and sweet pears I used gave the dessert an extra flavour dimension and ensured that it didn’t become oversweet like it could easily have been with just pears or the with mildly tart cooking apples that are so often used in apple desserts. The fruit flavour was rich and not overly sweet. It was good with whipped cream, would have been better with crème fraiche, and very good with vanilla sauce or vanilla ice cream. It is good warm, but better cold.

This turned out to be one of those dishes with recipes that are not only very easy to change with good results, but you actually only need to follow the recipe the first time you make them. I know that the next time I make this (and I will, having got the parental seal of approval) I will not follow a recipe, I will just throw the ingredients together, in the sure knowledge that it will turn out good.

Another time I will:
- cut the fruit into smaller pieces
- not mix the cornflakes into the sugar and other flavourings but sprinkle them separately, as they simply separate from the sugar and if you’re not careful, some layers will have more sugar and some more cornflakes
- use twice as much nutmeg, as I could barely taste it.

I would also like to see how it tastes with demerara or light brown sugar instead of white sugar.

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Anonymous said...

Thanks for saving my Christmas dinner! I had brought all the ingredients for the Brandy Hard Sauce on page 508 to my parents' house for Christmas dinner, to serve with the English Plum Pudding I had also brought. But I had left the book at home, and had never made the recipe before...your blog entry came to the rescue! And the dessert was great! Happy New Year...

Bibliophile said...

Glad to have been of service. Isn't the Web a wonderful thing?

Happy New Year to you too.