From the list of recipes that I carefully selected from French Women for All Seasons, the first one I had to get into was Pears on Brioche. It seemed like a relatively simple dish and, coming from the autumn section of her book, the perfect treat for a St. John’s day of RDF (Rain, Drizzle, Fog).
Picking up supplies we cheated in just a few areas. We got pears and nailed the first ingredient required. The next items were unsalted butter and almonds. Unfortunately, we are cheap. Salted butter was on sale, so we bought that instead, and we had no reason to buy almonds beyond this dish so we just left them out. Neither decision seemed to seriously alter the final result too much. The recipe also lists crème fraîche or cream cheese. We couldn’t get crème fraîche at the supermarket and as we needed cream for another recipe this week we decided to use it instead of cream cheese. I decided this might have cut through some of the sweetness of the recipe so when it came to the honey required, I used a bit less. Please note we had honey, so we nailed a second ingredient. Two out of the six ingredients ain’t bad, right?!
And yes, the sixth ingredient was a little different to what was specified. Guiliano makes the recipe on brioche but we slightly varied in the bread choice. Our local bakery, I like to think, is the best in the world. I could live off their Montreal Bagels. When they closed due to a fire for a month or so back in July, J—– and I went through withdrawal symptoms. One thing we haven’t noticed amongst their varied and great range of bread is brioche. Now we like to buy at our local, so we decided to swap out brioche for challah. Challah is a traditional Jewish egg bread use for celebrating the Sabbath and other Jewish Holidays. For a bit of a religious lesson, it is made to represent food provided by God for the body and spirit. Two loaves of Challah are made to symbolise the double portions of manna – the substance given as food to the Israelites in the desert.
Challah’s very similar to a brioche (so we weren’t too far off) as it too is a sweet loaf enriched with fat and eggs. The main difference is that instead of butter, challah recipes use oil and more eggs. In fact, that the challah loaf contains no dairy is important as it is not kosher for dairy to be eaten within the same meal as meat, of which is traditionally eaten on the Sabbath. We probably should have made our own Challah, as it is a fairly simple loaf to make calling for salt, flour, yeast, water, vegetable oil and eggs. But when I get to buy it perfectly baked fresh from our local bakery (it was literally just out of the oven when I walked into the shop), I’m not going to branch out into the challah direction just quite yet. I’m quite happy schlepping a loaf for 2 minutes.
Perhaps it’s a little blasphemous using challah as I am not Jewish, it’s not the Sabbath or any other Jewish holiday (that I’m aware of), and I was using it with a recipe that calls for butter and cream. But boy does challah do the trick. It’s as light as a fluffy cloud made with cotton candy. Yes, it’s definitely one for my sweet tooth.
Now, back to the Pears on Brioche, or in our case, Challah. The method for preparing the dessert is super easy. Chop pears, sauté in pan with butter, place on sliced brioche/challah, top with honey and almonds (or not), grill for 2 minutes watching closely so they don’t burn, and finally serve with crème fraîche/sour cream/cream.
I might not have been watching close enough, and my challah did get a bit too toasty (i.e. black) around the edges. But, this did not matter in the slightest. The pears were amazing, the amount of honey was perfect, even the bread was pure goodness (ignoring burnt bits). I would highly recommend this to anyone looking to impress with a super easy and tasty dessert.
Esterson, L. L. 2012. Challah. Baltimore Jewish Times, 324: p 122-123.
Guiliano M. 2006. French Women for All Seasons: A Year of Secrets, Recipes, and Pleasure. Random House Canada: USA.
Helicon (Ed.), 2016. The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with atlas and weather guide. Abington, United Kingdom: Helicon.
Judaism 101 [Online]. Available at http://www.jewfaq.org/food.htm [Accessed 4/11/2016].
Smitten Kitchen [Online]. Available at https://smittenkitchen.com/2008/09/best-challah-egg-bread/ [Accessed 4/11/2016].