I hate pears. I hate peaches. I hate fruits that aren't pink and red, which leaves me with just enough worthy candidates to have four fruits per year. Ruby red grapefruit in all its glory sprinkled liberally with sugar and salt. Perky grapes fresh from the vine. Cherries sunken to the bottom of my Shirley Temple cocktail. Now that is what I call fruity. So what is with this pear business? Why are they dangling from trees over my head and rearing their ugly stem at the farmer's market? I had no idea, but it was about time I found out. Last night, while tossing and turning in bed, treating my cookbooks as a soothing lullaby to aid in coaxing me into a restful sleep, I came across a recipe for rice pudding with a pear purée. The culprit? Miss Sophie Dahl herself, teasing me with British inspired seasonal concoctions in her inaugural cookbook, Miss Dahls Voluptuous Delights. Another model turned alleged chef, Sophie who is undoubtedly beautiful, was trying to convince me with peachy words that rice and pears go together like chocolate and my tummy, or cheese and macaroni if you will. Just one problem. I've never had rice pudding in my entire life (please don't gasp so audibly, I'm aware this fact is offensive) and the one time I did have pears it was clear I hated them and condemned them along with olives and anchovies (things I later would fall in love with, go figure). What was a experimental girl to do but dim the lights, sleep like a baby, and wake up bright an early at 1:30pm to make a fabulous brunch I was sure to hate! Sounds like an ideal humpday to me.
Do I really need to say it? Okay, yes....pears....are....orgasmic! I was salivating while actually eating. Just like a rich and creamy slowly churned ice cream, I couldn't wait for each next bite to reach my mouth, so naturally I inhaled the bowl. Which was second best to an IV drip being set up. I urge you to try this if you are either a) yet to experience rice pudding for yourself b) love rice pudding and never considered it for breakfast or c) pretty much despised pears or fruits in general, never getting your daily serving, and refuse to believe that things grown on trees could ever equate to sinful deliciousness. And as for the cookbook that coaxed me to sleep, its a beautiful tome of wonders, but the recipe below is all my own. Just the way I like it!
SOY RICE PUDDING & POACHED PEAR SYRUP
- 2 pears, peeled & cored
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 cup organic sugar (I used brown, but you can use palm or cane)
- 1 cup arborio rice
- 4 cups soymilk
- 1 ts cardamom
- 1/4 cup apple juice
- honey or maple syrup to taste
- crème fraîche (optional)
- In a saucepan big enough to fit 2 pear halves, place one cinnamon stick and the sugar in 4 cups of water. Heat, stirring, over high heat until all the sugar is dissolved, then bring the heat down to low.
- Place the pear halves into the simmering liquid, cover and poach until tender, about 15 minutes.
- Once the pears are done, remove from the liquid and bring the heat back up to high; reduce the liquid until it starts to get all syrupy and amazing-looking. Also, your kitchen should smell beautiful right about now, but keep a look out and don't let it burn!
- Meanwhile, bring milk and rice to a boil in a saucepan placed over high heat. Give it a good stir, and reduce the heat to low, cover and let simmer for about 25-30 minutes. Stir occasionally. Once it’s ready the rice will be tender and the liquid will have thickened somewhat so that it’s silky in texture.
- In another small pan, boil the apple juice and then add the remaining pears (be sure to slice them beforehand). Sprinkle with cardamom, add the cinnamon stick, reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes or until tender. Once ready, throw in a blender and puree.
- Serve the rice pudding hot, topped with a poached pear half and plenty of syrup or topped with peach puree and creme fraiche. Amazing!
THE VERDICT: Oh, how I miss this little section from recipes past. I shall bring it back as this recipe marked a life changing landmark for me, one where learning and pleasure where a perfect marriage. So what did I think of this masterful creation? Well, pretty much that rice pudding is all that the hype claims it to be. When cooked to the precise timing necessary, the frothy and creamy texture is like oatmeal's little sister, beating it out slightly thanks to the array of rice options one can use from Japanese black to Indian basmati. Yum!
WHAT I LEARNED: First things first, that syrup will burn to a stinky mess if you don't keep an eye on it. Which is what happened to me. Buggers. So I scraped some toffee off the bottom of the pan to top my bowl, redeeming my failure. Second, more milk means a creamier texture so adjust to your own liking. Be sure that any leftovers are heated up with more milk, whether in a pan or microwave, because I went back for seconds and was sad to see a dry clumpy rice bowl looking up at me. Moo.