It’s embarrassing how much time I spend thinking about recipes I want to try. I’ll start with the germ of an idea (say, a pear dessert for Mom’s birthday dinner). Then I’ll spend weeks – maybe months – considering the options: pear tart, pear cobbler, pear cake, pear sorbet… And when I finally decide on the perfect recipe, I abandon the idea entirely because I’m terrified of making a mistake. (Yeah, I never said my process was a healthy one.)
In this case, the paralyzing fear was invoked by the menace of homemade caramel sauce—it’s the easiest thing in the world to ruin. I think if I ever get around to recording another CD, it’ll be called Ways to Ruin Caramel, with forlorn country ballads like “Too Runny,” “Too Hard,” “Bitter and Scorched,” and “Grains of Sand.”
It took no less than three glasses of cheap wine for me to face my caramelized fear, and I’m so drunk—I mean, I’m so happy that I did! This caramel sauce is the perfect texture (creamy but not too thick), with the subtlest bite of sea salt and just enough booze. *hiccup*
The other components of the recipe – poached pears, sweetened mascarpone, flaky puff pastry, and toasted pistachios—are a cinch to prepare, yet every bit as delicious as the bourbon caramel.
- ½ cup pistachios
- All-purpose flour
- 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
- ¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter
- 3 Bosc pears, peeled, quartered, cored, and cut lengthwise into ¼-inch slices
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons water
- ¾ cup sugar
- ½ cup water
- ¼ cup light corn syrup
- ¾ cup whipping cream
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 tablespoons bourbon
- Pinch of sea salt
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 8 ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature
- ½ cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- Spread nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 325 degrees until they are light brown and fragrant, about 5-10 minutes. Roughly chop the pistachios once they are cool.
- Heat the oven to 400°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Unfold the pastry sheet and cut into 3 strips along the fold marks. Cut each strip in half, making six rectangles. Place the pastry onto the prepared baking sheets.
- Bake for 15 minutes or until the pastries are golden brown. Remove the pastries from the baking sheets and let cool on wire racks for 10 minutes. Split the pastries into 2 layers, making 12 layers in all.
- Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add pears, and toss to coat with butter. Sprinkle sugar over pears. Cook, stirring pears occasionally, until deep golden, about 30 minutes. Add lemon juice, and water. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is syrupy, about 3 minutes.
- Combine sugar, ½ cup water, and corn syrup in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves.
- Increase heat and boil without stirring until mixture turns a deep amber color, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling pan. Remove from heat.
- Carefully add cream. Stir sauce over low heat until any caramel bits dissolve and sauce is smooth.
- Remove from heat; stir in butter, salt, and bourbon.
- With an electric mixer on medium speed, whisk heavy cream until stiff peaks form (be careful not to overbeat, or cream will be grainy). In another bowl, whisk together mascarpone and confectioners’ sugar until smooth.
- Gently fold whipped cream into mascarpone mixture until completely incorporated.
- Place a small dollop of mascarpone filling on each plate. Top with the bottom half of each pastry rectangle. Spread the pastry with mascarpone, layer on pear slices, and drizzle with bourbon caramel sauce.
- Top with the top half of each pastry rectangle, dollop with mascarpone cream, drizzle with bourbon caramel sauce, and sprinkle with pistachios.