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Gone pear-shaped…

My waistline, definitely. Isn’t it funny that all my t-shirts miraculously shrunk overnight? I blame the dryer, it has absolutely nothing to do with my over indulging eating habit off late. I am not here to talk about my curvy figure, but what’s more important to me right now is my personal ‘space’ and ‘time’. For the last few weeks, things have been hectic around me including work, social life, commitments and slowly disappearing into the quicksand. Every time I pull myself out to take a quick breath, I sink into the abyss even deeper and faster. I need a holiday, indeed. Thank god I have Melbourne and Darwin trips coming up end of this month and I can’t wait for a nice break.

So if you are like me, simply don’t have the extra time to fluffing about and too lazy to cook but still would like to whip up something quick to entertain the guests, then spiced poached pear has to be one of the tastiest and simplest desserts to prepare even when blindfolded. It doesn’t have to be fancy, I made a simple recipe by poaching the pear with cinnamon stick, star anise and Grand Marnier, then served with chocolate ganache, and mascarpone infused with more Grand Marnier of course.

So sexy…

Grand Marnier is my new best friend, seriously this stuff is good! If you have never had it before, Grand Marnier is actually cognac aged in oak casks blended with bitter orange peels, you can just tell it will go so well with any desserts. Since I picked up a bottle of Grand Marnier at the airport recently and thanks to my addiction to Top Chef Just Desserts, I’ve been trying to find a way to incorporate it into many desserts, including a Grand Marnier pecan pie, a Grand Marnier pudding served with Grand Marnier ice cream, and now a spiced Grand Marnier poached pears with Grand Marnier mascarpone cream. I seriously love this versatile cognac.

I was so happy when the good people at Trish Nicol Agency wanted to send me a bottle of Grand Marnier, and is not just another bottler of Grand Marnier, it is the 130th Anniversary limited ‘RUBY’ edition Grand Marnier! Sexy or what?!

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I actually didn’t know that Grand Marnier released a limited edition design bottle every year and this year proven to be one of the best, 2008’s design (with mink coat!) is my second favourite. People collect ABSOLUT vodka, I think I will start collection Grand Marnier! 😀

Anyway, back to the dessert…

I am still learning and finding new techniques for dessert plating. My siphon canister is working overtime these days, and for this dessert I also tried to foam up the Chocolate ganache… but without success. I should have thin the ganache down a little as it was too thick to be siphoned, and also I didn’t put enough ganache inside and every squirt is like a farting of brown poo goo, not the nicest thing to see on a plate.

Another technique that I tried to do is the squiggly chocolate noodle, also didn’t come out as what I’d hoped for. It is a very fun trick by simply piping chocolate into a pot of iced water and let it set. When done well, the chocolate noodles gives height and dimensions to the plating and texture.

For the pears, I simply poached them with spices and Grand Marnier until nice and soft. To create a red shade gradient at the bottom of the pears, I simply poached them further in a pot of red wine, just enough to cover the bottom half of the pears.

I definitely can see myself keep doing this simple dessert until perfecto.

Recipe by A Table For Two

Spiced Grand Marnier Poached Pears
4 pears peeled and cored
1 cinnamon stick
1/3 cup Grand Marnier
2 star anise
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup red wine

1. Combine Grand Marnier, sugar, star anise, cinnamon stick in a medium saucepan over medium heat and cook until sugar dissolves.

2. Add the pears and fill the saucepan with water until all pears are fully submerged. Cut a piece of baking paper into a circle, just big enough to cover the saucepan and bring to boil.

3. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, turn occasionally, for 1 hour or until pears are tender when pierce with a skewer stick. Once done, take the pears out set aside.

4. Pour red wine into a new saucepan that is just big enough to fit 4 pears. Transfer the pears into the pot and make sure they are standing upright. Bring to boil, and let it simmer for another 15 minutes or until ready to serve.

Grand Marnier Mascarpone
250g Mascarpone
3tbsp Grand Marnier
1 tsp lemon zest

1. Combine mascarpone, Grand Marnier, lemon zest in a mixing bowl and mix well.

2. Scoop the mascarpone back into the tub and put back in the fridge, ready to be used.

Chocolate ganache
250g dark chocolate
1 cup heavy cream

1. Prepare a double boiler, melt dark chocolate and heavy cream in a heatproof bowl over simmering water.

2. Once melted, set aside to cool. Or put in the fridge to let it harden a little so it will be lot easier to quenelle.

Chocolate squiggly noodle
200g dark chocolate
1/3 caster sugar

1. Prepare a double boiler, melt the dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl over simmering water. Once melted, add sugar and mix until dissolved. Set aside and let cool.

2. When the chocolate is cool enough to handle, pour the chocolate into a seal-lock bag.

3. Fill a large pot or the kitchen sink with water and ice. The water has to be extremely cold.

4. Cut one of the corners of the seal-lock bag with scissors, make sure is not too big. Squeeze the chocolate into the iced water to form zig-zag sculpture. Let it set in water for 1 minute before fetching it out. transfer the set chocolate noodle to fridge, ready to be used.

5. Before serving, reduce the red wine with 2 tablespoon of sugar to a thick syrup.

1. Place a poached pear on the plate, drizzle with thick red wine syrup.
2. Garnish with quenelles of chocolate ganache, Grand Marnier mascarpone, and the chocolate squiggly noodles.