Pears Caramel with Bay Leaf Custard

I like to have this with chilled custard and warm pears. It’s both deeply comforting and very elegant. You could make a little almond biscuit to have with it if you wanted. Chilling takes the sugary edge off the custard a little, which I like. Bay leaves have a sweet, gently aromatic, musky quality which goes very nicely with pears. Make the custard a few hours before the pears so it can chill properly.

To make the custard (serves 2-3 when it’s the main constituent of the pudding): 

3 large egg yolks 

500ml of very creamy milk 

1/3 cup measure of sugar

vanilla (1 pod or 1 tsp of extract – use less for essence)

1 large or two small bay leaves

How to make:

Warm the milk through with the vanilla and bay leaves until fairly hot, but not boiling. Turn the heat off.  Separate the eggs, and whisk the egg yolks with the sugar in a large bowl. After making sure the milk is not scaldingly hot, pour a very little into the egg yolks, whisking a lot. Slowly keep adding the milk while whisking until it’s all incorporated and whisk really well. 

Pour the whole lot back into a pan and cook on a low heat, constantly stirring or whisking until it becomes the thickness of double cream.  Do not let it get too hot or the eggs will go hard and it will be unpleasantly lumpy. When it’s the thickness you want, pour it into a bowl, cover with cling film to prevent a skin forming and allow it to cool and refrigerate.  Remove the bay leaves before serving.

Pears – serves 2-3

2-3 ripe, juicy eating pears, peeled and quartered lengthways

1/3 cup of golden caster sugar

1/2 cup of vermouth or water

60g of butter

How to make

Pre-heat oven to 200 Celsius.

Peel and quarter lengthways some ripe juicy pears. Place them in a smallish roasting tray with 1/3 cup measure of golden caster sugar, 1/2 cup of vermouth or water and 60g of butter. 

Place in the oven for 30-40 minutes. Every now and again turn the pears gently in the melted mixture. Add more butter and water if it looks too dry. 

A sweet caramel should form at the bottom of the roasting pan. 

To serve:

Pour a generous amount of chilled custard in to a bowl, arrange a few pear quarters in the bottom. Drizzle some pear caramel on top.

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