THIS year's MasterChef winner - Sydney's Larissa Takchi - started her culinary journey working at her family's cafe, Wild Pear, in Dural, NSW.
No surprise, then that the 22-year old dessert queen - who won the MasterChef crown thanks to her delicious cakes and sweets - has come up with three unique pear dishes in time for the start of the entertaining season.
Switching out the traditional fruits used in some of Australia's most well-known desserts, Larissa has created three daring pear-ings: Sticky Pear Pudding, Dark Chocolate Mousse with Marsala Pears and Caramelised Pear Bread.
"I absolutely love cooking with Australian Pears and experimenting with these traditional dessert recipes has been a lot of fun," she said.
"Pears are a great option when cooking savoury and sweet dishes, and luckily for us Aussies we have a wide range of pear varieties grown here in Australia, available all year round and each with unique flavour profiles and colours.
"I also love how versatile pears are which is why I often incorporated the fruit into dishes during my time on MasterChef and on the menu at our aptly named Wild Pear Café!
"Their gentle sweetness allows them to pair well with a number of ingredients, and they can be enjoyed fresh, grilled, poached, puréed or baked - making them one of my favourite fruits to cook with."
Larissa's top tips for cooking with pears
- If you're looking for a ripe pear, press the neck lightly near the stem - if the flesh gives a little, the pear is ripe and ready to enjoy! There are a couple of sure-fire ways to speed up the ripening process too - pop them in a paper bag or sit them snug next to other fruit in a bowl.
- Experiment with different varieties of pears depending on your dish - William and Packham pears are sweet and juicy so taste great fresh or cooked. Try Beurré Bosc for poaching - they have a buttery flavour and are slightly firmer, so hold their shape well during cooking.
- Pears compliment a wide range of ingredients - try these pear-ings: cinnamon, ginger, chocolate, citrus, honey, cheese, ricotta, nuts, vanilla, wine, pork and chicken.
- Don't overlook an overripe pear - they are fantastic for chutneys and jams.
Sticky Pear Pudding
For a twist on a classic try swapping out dates for pears - they work wonderfully with the spices in the pudding. Try this recipe with Packham or William pears - they are great all-rounder pears that can be eaten fresh or used in cooking.
Preparation: 15 minutes
Cooking: 30 minutes for individual puddings
Pear and Ginger Cake:
- 3 pears, grated with a box grater or mandolin
- 165g caster sugar
- 125g unsalted butter, cubed, softened
- 2 eggs
- 60g golden syrup
- 150g plain flour
- 1 tbsp. ground ginger
- 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 3/4 tsp. bicarb soda
- Pinch of salt
- 150g unsalted butter, softened
- 300g dark muscovado sugar
- 1 tbsp. golden syrup
- 200ml double cream
- For the Pear and Ginger Cake, lightly spray an 8-cup mini loaf cake tin with canola spray and set aside.
- Place the sugar and butter into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition. Add the golden syrup and mix to combine. Remove the bowl from the mixer and sift in the flour, spices and bicarb soda. Fold through gently.
- Add the pear, a pinch of salt and 160ml hot water and fold through until just combined. Pour into prepared tins and bake until cooked through, about 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, to make the sauce, melt the butter, muscovado sugar and golden syrup over a very low heat in a heavy-based saucepan. Once the butter's melted, stir gently until everything else is melted too. Now stir in the cream, then turn up the heat and when it's bubbling and hot, take it off the heat.
- Remove from the oven and place the tins on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Invert cakes onto wire rack.
Note: You can serve hot or leave to cool! If you do not have a mini loaf tin, you can also use a muffin tin.
Dark Chocolate Mousse with Marsala pears
Change up your chocolate mousse and berry pairing - pears and chocolate are a match made in heaven! To check if a pear is firm, text the neck of the pear by gently squeezing the flesh near the stem.
Serves 8-10 individual jars
Preparation: 25 minutes
Cooking: 40 minutes plus 4 hours for setting mousse
- 3 firm pears
- 125ml full cream milk
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp Nutella
- 240g dark chocolate, chopped into small chunks
- 600ml pouring cream, whipped
- 250ml marsala or port wine
- 100ml honey
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 vanilla pod, split lengthways
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 4 bay leaves
- A handful of hazelnuts
- Crème fraiche
- To make the chocolate mousse, place the milk and nutella in a saucepan over low medium heat and allow to come up just before boiling point. Meanwhile in a bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, sugar and pinch of salt until combined and place chocolate in a separate bowl.
- When the milk is ready, gradually whisk it into the egg mixture until all combined and return mixture back to the saucepan over low medium heat. Cook whilst continuously stirring until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Take the custard off the heat and set aside. Stir to combine and pour over the chocolate. Without disturbing, allow the custard to melt the chocolate for 2 minutes. Whisk the mixture until smooth (if the chocolate hasn't fully melted, simply return the entire mixture to the stove top over low heat and gently stir and melt through).
- Allow the mixture to cool slightly. Fold through the whipped cream, pour into individual serving jars and allow to set in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight.
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Place the pears in a roasting dish, nice and snug. Add the marsala, honey, cinnamon, vanilla, lemon zest and bay leaves. Cover with foil and roast for 20 minutes. Uncover the foil and roast for a further 20 minutes. The pears should be soft and wrinkly. When cool enough to handle, slice the pears into quarters removing the seeds and core.
- To serve, add a dollop of crème fraiche to the mousse jar, a wedge of marsala pear, drizzle with marsala cooking syrup, sprinkle with hazelnuts.
Caramelised Pear Bread
Shake up your banana bread recipe. Pears add natural sweetness and help keep the bread moist. Try Beurré Bosc pears for this recipe - their traditional pear shape and firmer texture makes them great for cooking, particularly poaching.
Preparation: 30 minutes
Cooking: 1 hour
- 5 pears, peeled and halved lengthwise
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1.5 tbsp orange juice
- 3 tbsp water
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 cup plain flour
- 1/2 cup wholemeal flour
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- For caramelised pears pour water, orange juice, sugar and butter in a medium fry pan over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved and the mixture is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes.
- Add pears, cut side up. Cook about 3-4 minutes. Turn them over and cook just until slightly softened, about 4 minutes. Let them cool slightly.
- Line the bottom of a 95 inch loaf pan with parchment paper. Place the pears, cut side down in the pan. Heat the remaining liquid in the frypan and pour it over the pears.
- For the pear bread, preheat oven to 180C.
- Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat eggs and sugar until pale and fluffy about 5 minutes. Add in olive oil and mix well.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cardamom and cinnamon.
- Pour the dry ingredients into the wet mixture in 2 additions. Don't over mix. Just use a hand whisk and whisk until everything is combined.
- Pour the batter over pears. Smooth the top.
- Bake until top is golden or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes.
- Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes and serve - the bread will taste delicious with ricotta and honey!
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