Friday, March 28, 2008
I usually don’t look forward to the change of seasons between summer and autumn. It means no more beautiful mangoes and nectarines, it means pitch darkness when I wake up in the morning, it means that very soon I’ll have perpetually cold hands and feet and probably wind up with the flu, it means that my beautiful city will soon look leafless and sad.
But on the flipside, its an excuse to buy a nice pair of boots, wear my favourite blue coat, watch the sun rise while I drink my morning coffee, and (glee!) have all the beautiful autumn fruits to play with in dishes I’ve been dreaming about for months. Not to mention that my very favourite kind of weather is a cool, crisp morning that warms up into a glorious sunny day; a Sydney autumn specialty.
When I rationalized it like that, I couldn’t help but feel a tiny bit excited about the onset of the cooler weather. I was psyched, ready, and then summer held on for dear life, giving us much warmer temperatures than we’d seen when it really was summer! But last week it cooled down literally overnight and I could finally start some great autumn cooking.
And what a way to start! I think this is one of the loveliest desserts I’ve ever made. My sister came home from school just after I had browned the butter with vanilla, and just by the delicious scent that floated through the house she knew there were good things to come. The flavours and textures in this crumble work together so well, and a large scoop of vanilla ice cream when served only intensifies its magnificence. I found that I had at least half the crumble topping left over, but somehow I don’t think any one would mind me making this little charmer again.
Pear Crumble with Vanilla Brown Butter
Adapted from SmittenKitchen
• 1 ½ cups plain flour
• 1 cup whole almonds with skin
• ¼ cup brown sugar
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 85g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
• 1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
• 60g unsalted butter
• ¼ cup brown sugar
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 1 tablespoon plain flour
• 4 firm-ripe pears, peeled and chopped
• 2 tablespoons brandy
1. In a food processor, place flour, almonds, brown sugar, and salt. Pulse until nuts are finely chopped. Add butter and pulse just until blended. Coarsely crumble in a shallow baking pan and chill at least 1 hour.
2. Preheat the oven to 200°C (390°F)
3. Scrape the seeds from a vanilla bean into a small saucepan. Add the bean itself and the butter. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally for about 4 minutes, or until butter is browned and fragrant.
4. Stir together the sugars and flour in a large bowl. Add pears and brandy and toss to combine.
5. Discard vanilla pod and toss butter with the pear mixture. Spoon filling into gratin dishes and sprinkle with crumble topping.
6. Put dishes on a shallow baking pan, and bake for 30 minutes. Rotate baking sheet and bake another 10-15 minutes, until topping is golden brown and filling is bubbling. Cool to warm or room temperature on a rack, and serve with ice cream or custard.