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Farm Fresh: For a flavorful dessert, don't overlook pears

Thursday, October 14, 1999

Tested by Arlene Burnett

Let's forget about apples for a moment and concentrate on pears. For the recipe below we used Bosc, but any variety will do; just make sure you use ripe pears. You'll be able to tell a ripe pear by its smell (it smells like a pear).

Little Pear Soufflés

1 1/2 pounds (5-6 ripe Bosc pears, peeled, cored and cut into coarse chunks
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1/4 cup cold water
2 1/2 tablespoons amaretto (we substituted orange juice)
4 large egg whites
Pinch salt
2 1/2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

Butter four 1-cup ramekins or soufflé dishes (one cup oven-proof bowls of any kind will do), sprinkle the interiors with granulated sugar. Refrigerate until serving time.

Combine pears, lemon juice, spices, vanilla bean and water in a heavy nonreactive saucepan. Over medium heat, cover and cook pears until soft, 10-15 minutes.

Uncover the pan and continue to cook, stirring and mashing the pears, until the mixture has reduced to a thick chunky purée, about 5 minutes longer. Add the liqueur or orange juice and heat for a few moments. Remove from heat, remove vanilla bean, set aside to cool.

Shortly before serving, preheat oven to 400 degrees, with rack in the lower third of oven. Beat the egg whites with salt until soft peaks form -- gradually add sugar and beat until not quite stiff. Fold a large spoonful of whites into pear mixture; gently fold in remaining whites. Place soufflé bowls on baking sheet, fill each with mixture. Smooth tops with spatula. Run your thumb around the batter inside the rim -- the soufflé will form a "high hat" as it bakes.

Bake soufflés until they are puffed and brown, 10-12 minutes. Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

"Classic Home Desserts," by Richard Sax

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