As the description said, this recipe is “sort of a half dessert, half cheese course.” The savory blue cheese “Fondant”; what exactly makes this a fondant? with the not too sweet pear is balanced and made a dessert with the baklava. Baklava is a very sweet nutty and honey filled middle-eastern pastry, it’s generally made with pistachios, and the recipe I found this in actually used pine nuts, seeing as pine nuts are very expensive, and it’s always fun to mix things up, I used pecans. THIS WAS AMAZING! I mean the pears look more impressive, and they tasted really good too, but the baklava is what really blew me away. I almost didn’t make it and just went with the pears, but I’m glad I took on the challenge because the pears really depended on the baklava to bring it all together while the baklava could really stand on its own. I’ve always loved baklava, enjoying the cute little pastries after more than my share of hummus and baba ganoush from a nearby middle eastern restaurant. I have never even considered making it, but it looks more intimidating than it really is, it’s just layering filo and filling.
The pears were a completely different flavor, without any sugar aside from the thin layer on the outside and, of course, the natural flavors of the sweet pear. These flavors are an unexpected combination, although pears or apples and cheese are a great pair, so why not baked pears with blue cheese? The uncommon medley is what caught my eye when I was scanning Charlie Trotter’s Desserts cookbook, blue cheese is one of my favorite cheeses, adding a baked pear delicacy to the equation made me fall in love with the recipe and the cookbook in an instant. By now I have perused the entire book 10 times over and am regretting returning it to the library in a couple weeks, even though I probably won’t be making anything in Charlie Trotter’s Desserts cookbook while I have it, I just like looking at it, hoping to one day, have a cookbook as amazingly gourmet as this one. So here goes…
For the Pears
4 pears (Trotter suggests bosc)
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons pinot grigio (I just used 2 buck chuck- I’m not drinking it anyway)
1. Simple Syrup- bring 1 cup of water and sugar to a boil then remove from heat.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
3. Slice pears in half and scoop out core and some of the surrounding flesh to make a cavity leaving the stem and skins on the pear.
4. Combine pinot grigio and ¼ cup simple syrup together.
5. Place pears on a glass pan face down and brush with wine syrup mixture.
6. Cook for about an hour until tender. Meanwhile, start the baklava
7. Cool the pears
2 cups toasted and chopped pecans
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup honey
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
6 ½ sheets filo dough
confectioners sugar for dusting (about half a cup)
1 cup finely ground pecans
½ cup simple syrup
1. Butter a 9-inch glass pan
2.Combine chopped pecans, ¼ cup of the melted butter, honey, cinnamon, and nutmeg, set aside.
3. Lay one piece of filo on your work surface, brush with butter, dust with confectioners sugar and one tablespoon of ground pecans.
4. Cover with another filo sheet and repeat. Cover with another filo sheet, cut in half and into a shape that will fit in your glass pan. Place both halves in the pan on top of each other and spread half of the honey/pecan mixture on top.
5. Repeat steps 3 and 4. Then cut a sheet of filo to fit in your glass pan and place on top of your baklava.
6. Refrigerate for 1 hour
7. About 15 minutes before you are ready to bake the baklava preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat the simple syrup in a small saucepan for about 10 minutes until it is reduced to about half. Brush half on top of the baklava and bake for 30-40 minute until golden brown. Pour remaining syrup over the top and let cool.
For the Blue Cheese Fondant
¾ to 1 cup heavy cream depending on how thick you want it, I used at least one cup.
¼ cup blue cheese
1 tablespoon black pepper
¼ cup mascarpone cheese
1. Whip cream until it forms soft peaks.
2. Add the blue cheese, black pepper (I used fresh coarse ground), and mascarpone, whisk until smooth.
Scoop the fondant into each of the cavities of the pears, I purposely overfilled mine a bit. Then prop against the baklava on a small-medium plate. Add more cream to any remaining fondant to make a sauce and drizzle over the entire plate. I also sprinkled blue cheese, pecans and ground pepper over the plate. Now that it looks perfect, take a bite, what do you think?
Recipe adapted from Charlie Trotter’s Desserts cookbook