Monday, August 26, 2013

Pear Turnovers

Mini Pear Turnovers

Utah is a wonderful place to be during pear season.  Thanks to a volunteer afternoon with The Green Urban Lunchbox, I got a large bowlful of fresh pears that all turned a lovely yellow which is of course the best time to enjoy them.  I have memories of a pear tree in my backyard as a kid and although I didn't care for the scent of the flowers, biting into a perfect sun-warmed yellow pear was pure joy. 

This batch of pears called out for something extra special and I was struck with inspiration... probably a Pinterest photo of something else that made me think of turnovers.  I didn't feel like looking up a recipe so I made one up.  This makes 18 so I had some to play with variations; the recipe below is for the best one.  :)

I used frozen puff-pastry.  I'm not one to spend time rolling and re-rolling pastry dough.  Pull it out of the freezer and unwrap it so it can thaw on the counter for 10-15 minutes, unfold it onto parchment paper and let thaw another 5 minutes or so, and you're all set.

The frozen pastry I get comes in a tri-fold so there are already marks to split it into three.  Split each one of those into three so you have nine small squares from each sheet.  Put a small slice of pear in the center of each one (more won't fit) and fold the edges over into a triangle, pressing the edges together. Note, don't mash the pears, use a whole slice; it holds together much better during baking.

Make an egg wash (beaten egg with a tablespoon-ish of water) and brush over each pastry.  This makes them shiny and crunchy.  Sprinkle cinnamon-sugar over the tops of them.  I made some with this and some without and it makes a huge difference.  Serve warm or cold, with Caramel Sauce for dipping.  Yum!

Mini Pear Turnovers
Mini Pear Turnovers
From Someplace That's Green
Makes 18

18 slices of ripe pear - Bartlett preferred.  (3-4 pears)
Box of frozen puff pastry (I use Pepperidge Farms)
1 Egg
1 Tbsp water

1.  Thaw the puff pastry and cut into squares.  There are two packages per box and each makes 9 squares.
2.  Put a small slice of pear onto each pastry.  Fold the edges over and press closed.  If the pear is too large to let it close, cut it smaller.  Closing is important.
3.  Arrange triangles on parchment paper on a baking sheet.
4.  Gently beat egg and water together in a small bowl to make egg wash.  Brush this over every pastry.
5.  Sprinkle cinnamon sugar over each pastry.
6.  Bake in 400-degree oven for about 15 minutes or until golden brown and puffy.
7.  Serve with caramel sauce and smiles.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Caramel Sauce

Caramel Sauce over pears and toasted walnuts
My husband made this wonderful caramel sauce to serve over fresh pears and toasted walnuts.  It's sweet and perfect.  It was also delicious over chocolate ice cream... and the couple of spoonfuls that I ate plain (shhhh).  It's pretty thin while it is hot then thickens up more as it cools, but who can wait that long?  The photo was taken before the sauce thickened, it turns a beautiful medium brown color. 

This is another winner from the Food Network with lots of happy reviews and five stars.  WIN!

Caramel Sauce

1 packed cup brown sugar
1/2 cup half-and-half
4 tablespoons butter
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Mix the brown sugar, half-and-half, butter and salt in a saucepan over medium-low heat.
Cook while whisking gently for 5 to 7 minutes, until it gets thicker.
Add the vanilla and cook another minute.
Turn off the heat, cool slightly and pour the sauce into a jar.
Store covered in the refrigerator.  Stir before using.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Mama Graciela's Flan (family recipe)

Mama Graciela's Flan
My husband and I recently had the pleasure of attending a cousin's wedding and I got to meet some wonderful extended family members.  This traditional Puerto Rican flan recipe has been passed down through several generations and we are very happy to have the opportunity to share it.  Thanks go to cousin Gracie for writing it down for us, and for giving my husband such great memories of eating it many years ago that he remembered to ask. 

Both of the variations - Coconut Flan and Cheesecake Flan (yes you read that right) are absolutely delicious.  The coconut is subtle and would be a great choice for ending a tropical dinner.  Cheesecake flan is yummy and creamy and I don't have enough descriptive words that don't involve drooling on my keyboard. 

We also tried the recipe with and without flour.  I prefer the smoother texture without and my husband prefers it with.  Both are awesome.  The shard of caramelized sugar in the photo is from pouring hot sugar syrup into an extra ramekin, waiting until it cooled, then breaking the stained-glass-looking sugar.  I'll admit that was an accident but it was sure tasty.  For presentation the ramekins make it much prettier but spreading out the hot sugar is a bit trickier, so I recommend using a single dish.  We have a glass 8x8 pan that fits perfectly inside a larger glass rectangle baking dish with enough room for water to surround the square.

Get bright happy colorful ramekins.  They make everything more fun.  :)

Mama Graciela's Flan
Equipment needed: heavy saucepan, bain marie (or a reasonable replacement), 8x8" square pan that fits inside the water bath pan
Optional: 6-8 Ramekins depending on the size of your bain marie pan - this fits eight 4.5-oz ramekins

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup sugar to caramelize (in addition to what's listed above)
2 12-oz cans evaporated milk
1 tsp vanilla
6 egg yolks
4 egg whites
1 Tbsp flour (optional)

Alternate: Coconut Flan - Add a can of coconut milk with the other wet ingredients. (can size is not terribly important, just don't use a giant one)
Alternate: Cheesecake Flan - Add 8 oz softened cream cheese with the other wet ingredients.

Traditional Flan
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Prepare pans - use either an 8x8 square or 6-8 4.5oz ramekins, and a larger baking dish with high sides.  Put the smaller dish(es) inside the larger one and fill the larger one with water so it's about 3/4 to the top.  This will be heavy and awkward to get in and out of the oven so make sure to have good hot pads/mitts handy.  
3. Mix evaporated milk, vanilla, egg yolks and whites.
4. Slowly add flour and 1 cup sugar.  Prepare the flan mix before the sugar so it's ready to pour when the sugar is done.
5. Caramelize sugar: Put 1/2 cup sugar in a heavy saucepan on low to medium-low heat.  Watch this constantly, as it can burn very quickly.  Do not stir, just let the sugar do its thing; it will turn liquid as it heats up, bubble, and turn a lovely golden brown (takes 8-10 minutes).  When this happens, remove from heat immediately.
6. While it is still very hot, carefully pour the caramel into the smaller oven pan and tilt the pan around so it gets all covered.  Pour flan mix into this pan over the caramel.
7. Fill larger oven pan about 1/3 with water and place the smaller oven pan into it so the water surrounds the pan, then place pans in the oven.  
8. Bake at 350 for 75 minutes.
9. Serve warm or cold.  Enjoy!