Thursday, July 27, 2006

Jam Sessions: Fruit, Sugar, Water, Magic

Yup. Jam. Again. Lately, "Pour some sugar on me" is all I can hear ringing in my ears like an 80's hair metal anthem whenever I so much as glance at anything from a peach to an orange. Fruity? Perhaps. I am forever obsessing about one thing or another; I suppose preserving is as good a phase to be afflicted by as any other.

And again, I have my nose buried in Christine Ferber's Mes Confitures . Trouble is, it's down the rabbit hole into a wonderland of never-ending tea parties and dancing sugar plum visions - even after narrowing down to the fruit in question, for every recipe I look at, there are 5 others I want to try. The light at the end of the tunnel nears not.

Pear with Spiced Caramel Preserves

Adapted from the book (the original recipe juliennes the pears, uses ground spices, and specifies green apple stock jelly to be made separately). The rich caramel flavour and warms accents of cardamom, cinnamon, star anise and vanilla bean make this luxurious and special. Hands down, my favourite thus far amongst the recipes I've had a go at - worth every anxious second of the long fortnight I waited for the pears to ripen perfectly (I used Sugar/Ayers pears, although Bartlett, Packham or Forelle would also work).

1.2 kg pears, ripe but still firm
600 gm, plus 300 gm, caster sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 4 oranges (to obtain 200 ml)
8 cardamom pods
2 cinnamon sticks
3 whole star anise
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
750 gm Granny Smith apples
750 ml water

Peel the pears. Remove the stems and cores. Slice each pear lengthwise into eigths. In a ceramic bowl, combine the pears, 600gm sugar, and lemon juice. Let macerate for 15 minutes.

Heat 200ml freshly squeezed orange juice till lukewarm in a small pan. Set aside. Use the remaining 300gm sugar to make caramel in a preserving pan. Once it is an amber hue, pour in the warmed orange juice (be careful, it will splutter), stirring until the caramel is completely dissolved. Bring to a boil, then add the macerated pears and spices. Bring again to a boil, then immediately turn contents into a ceramic bowl. Cover the preparation with a circle of parchment paper to help keep the fruit submerged. Clingwrap the bowl and refrigerate overnight.

Meanwhile, rinse the apples in cold water. Dry. Remove stems and quarter them without peeling or removing the cores. Place in a preserving pan, cover with 750 ml water, bring to a boil over high heat. Once water comes to a boil, turn heat down to low and simmer gently for 30 minutes until the apples are soft. Collect the pectin-rich juice by pouring the mixture through a chinois. Discard the apples. Filter the juice a second time through wet-then-wrung cheesecloth. Let the juice run freely so as not to force more sediment through than will already occur. Cover and refrigerate the juice overnight.

Next day, ladle out 500 ml of apple juice without disturbing the sediment that has sunk to the bottom. Set aside. Pour the pear preparation into a sieve placed over a preserving pan. Set the pear slices and spices aside. To the collected pear syrup in the pan, add the apple juice. Bring to a boil. Skim rigorously of any scum as you cook on high heat. Clip on a candy thermometer - the syrup should be sufficiently concentrated at 221°F/105°C.

Add the pear slices and spices to the cooking syrup. Return this to a boil and cook on high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring gently. Keep on skimming diligently. Check the set - either use the candy thermometer (the temperature has to climb back to 221°F/105°C), or put a few drops of jam on a cold plate to monitor the consistency. Ladle the jam into sterilized jars immediately and seal.

Pear and Lime "Charlotte"

I was going to make a honey genoise, soak it in a Poire Williams liqueur-spiked syrup, fill the split cake with pear preserves, and enrobe the whole in a buttercream flavoured with more honey and more Poire Williams. To cut a long story short, it was a sweltering afternoon, I couldn't face turning the oven on, and so promptly got sidetracked by this fabulously simple number from Christine Manfield's Desserts.

Instead of the ladyfinger sponge of a classic charlotte, Ms. Manfield uses poached pear slices to line the dariole molds. I simply used the segments from the preserves (the reason why I decided to slice rather than julienne the pears - greater versatility where dessert applications are concerned) - thanks to the maceration and twice-cooked process, sugar is gradually absorbed by the pear pieces, allowing them to cook to succulence without losing their shape. The sweet, fragrant pear is gorgeous against the light yet luscious lime bavarois and the refreshingly tart layer of lime jelly - just the sweet for when you're wilting in the heat. Then, irrationally feeling a tad guilt-stricken for the sheer easiness of it all, I spun some sugar.

As for the honey genoise idea? It can wait - for the pear preserves certainly can, surely the nicest thing about preserving - for a cool, balmy post-morning showers afternoon.


Blogger Unknown said...

you never fail to amaze me... and the thing that really made me whistle here was the fact that you made the apple juice from scratch instead of just using bottled or tetrapak juices - BIG WOW!

12:23 am, July 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With preserves like these I think I could easily eat from a jar for the rest of my life. Just lovely!

And you've reminded me (thank you) about Ferber's book which I've been meaning to buy for quite some time!

1:12 am, July 27, 2006  
Blogger Pirikara said...

Nice pics...I love the color of the wall! heheh

6:41 am, July 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This looks wonderful! I have only made jam once in my life, pear as well...with cinnamon :) This sounds marvellous! I will be bookmarking this to try...I like how you don't have any of that pectin or pectin-sugar, jam sugar, etc in the recipe...because I can't find any here! That is what has been stopping me from trying a lot of jam/preserves recipes! Thanks for posting the recipe and inspiring us as usual! :)

3:01 pm, July 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Delicious and beautiful! I would love to try this, J.

4:16 pm, July 27, 2006  
Blogger siewyuk said...

such gorgeous colours! and too beautiful-to-eat desserts, thanks for sharing this with us! pls let me know how to make spun sugar, it looks ethereal...

7:44 pm, July 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the idea of this charlotte. Brilliant and great mise en scene for a superb dessert. Would you recommend this dessert cookbook?

8:40 pm, July 27, 2006  
Blogger Krithika said...

Pear and Lime "Charlotte" looks fabulous ! Lovely colors.

9:38 pm, July 27, 2006  
Blogger Parisbreakfasts said...

I love the way we get to see the whole fruit before it goes into the pot -- the sense of process is lovely. The pictures are poetic and the stories of how you make your choices add the human touch to perfection. Will you show us your studio/work space some time? :)

10:35 pm, July 27, 2006  
Blogger Gustad said...

but the true question is... is that a really large jug, or very tiny pears?

10:47 pm, July 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Joycelyn, although pears are considered a winter fruit here, these beautiful creations are perfect for summer. Lovely flavour combinations and I just LOVE the look of your charlotte - so pretty! I just checked Christine Manfield's book but I definitely prefer your version ;) I've found quite a few interesting recipes in the book but I can't help feeling that the plating/decoration is a bit dated (a kind of 80s feel if you know what I mean!) - do you agree?

10:48 pm, July 27, 2006  
Blogger Joycelyn said...

hi eatzycath, thanks, you are much too kind. paranoia about pectin-levels in bottled juice, rather then diligence, prevented me from taking your brilliant shortcut ;)

hi ivonne, as you can probably tell, it's certainly a favourite of mine :) with all the lovely fruit you have access to, i think you would really enjoy it too

hi pirikara, it's one of my favourite colours too :)

hi joey, thanks for your sweet words. one of the reasons why i love christine ferber's book is that she never ever uses pectin powder or preserving sugar. all her jams are naturally set with the naturally occuring pectin in the fruit or with the addition of apple juice or apple stock jelly.

hi mae, i'm sure whatever you care to create and photograph will turn out lovely ;)

hi siewyuk, thanks! re:spun sugar, please feel free to email me

hi bea, thanks! yes, if you're looking for inspired flavour combinations, it's great. however,as it's not exactly a recent title, i have to agree with keiko about the plating style, which understandably looks a certain way ;)

hi krithika, thanks! glad you like it

hi carol, thanks for your words of encouragement, as kitchen is tiny and cluttered - definitely not the stuff of pretty pictures ;)

hi gustad, a very tall jug ;)

hi keiko, thanks for your kind words. i well remember your beautiful architectural rendition of the ice-cream cone and tart from the book ;) the plating/photography is rather circa 1988, although many of the recipe ideas are really lovely!

11:18 pm, July 27, 2006  
Blogger FooDcrazEE said...

if only I have ur skills in photography and cooking.


3:54 pm, July 28, 2006  
Blogger Deb Schiff said...

Gorgeous! You make such artistic food! And, your photos are so well done. Excellent stuff!

1:23 am, July 29, 2006  
Blogger Elodie said...

That's so gorgeous ! The slices are a really good idea, I'll copy it !

4:52 am, July 29, 2006  
Blogger *fanny* said...

Hi Joycelyn, it feels strange to see pears now (summer here in France), but your charlotte sounds so summer-ish.
It looks gorgeous and the preserves sounds nice as well.

I keep in mind the pear-instead-of-savoiardi trick!

PS every time you post an article about Christine Ferber's book my credit card moan and struggle hard against amazon. Maybe one day she'll allow me to buy this delicious book...


6:40 pm, July 29, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dearest J, I have to agree with Fanny - everytime you post yet another exquisite recipe from Christine Ferber's book I have to use all my willpower to not run off and order it immediately! This jam is gorgeous and so intriguing - maybe it's time to rethink my resistence, particularly now that I've gotten past the first hurdle of preserve-making myself. I also love the idea of the all-fruit charlotte, a dessert I really should pay more attention to. A funny thing, actually, is that last time I was in Paris I watched quite a few French cooking programs and just about every chef on TV prepared a charlotte, acting as if it was the culinary discovery of the decade!

12:40 pm, July 30, 2006  
Blogger lobstersquad said...

I know, I never ever get to the end of any tunnel. And I don´t stop buying new cookbooks, either, so it doesn´t look like this situation has a remedy.
Loved the jug photo. so beautiful

6:09 pm, July 30, 2006  
Blogger Julia said...

O my god, what a beautiful charlotte, those colours! Its soo pretty. Walked (carried...!) straight out of the movie Marie-Antoinette :)

8:59 pm, August 03, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

my mouth is watering. The color in these images are so lovely.

2:55 am, August 04, 2006  
Blogger Ruth Daniels said...

Stunning - no other word comes to mind.

8:59 pm, August 06, 2006  

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