I have a confession. Since I make the Technical Bake "blind" (in that I have not seen the episode before baking,) it turns out I accidentally cheated when making this weeks Mini Pear Pies.
Let me explain. About a month ago, the pears on our tree were ready. Since they do not keep well, and all arrive at once, I poached them, then froze them in their poaching liquor.
When this Technical Bake came around, I was delighted to find a use for my poached pears, so I defrosted about half and set about. This was almost certainly the Technical Bake I found easiest, and after watching the episode, I understood why - I did not have the challenge of working out when the pear was cool enough for the wrapping.
Really, I only had an advantage over the tent based bakers, as any cook at home would have the luxury of time to leave the pears to cool completely. On the other hand, the size of my pears (tiny. No really. Absolutely minature - the equivalent to about a quarter of a normal pear,) made the removal of the core quite tricky. The instructions on the BBC food website indicate that a melon baller would be a good way to remove the core. If I had used a melon baller there would be no pear left. Instead the end of a vegetable peeler and a great deal of sticky patience was required.
I was delighted with the rough puff - this is the first time I've tried to make it, and it puffed up and flaked beautifully.
Recipe (from BBC Food)
For the rough puff pastry
200g/7oz plain flour, plus extra for rolling
100g/3½oz butter, in a block, frozen (well and truly frozen is best for nice marbling and consequent flakiness - I put mine in the freezer the night before making this bake)
100g/3½oz lard, in a block, frozen (see note for butter)
1 free-range egg, beaten (this is for glazing, I omitted a glaze)
2 tbsp granulated sugar
For the poached pears
6 large, firm pears (preferably ones that are straight and tall - hahahahahahahaha - see pictures)
300g/10½oz caster sugar
500ml/18fl oz dry white wine (my pears were actually poached in a simple syrup of sugar and water only, as they were only being poached to preserve them, I added a little cinnamon and lemon to the syrup before reducing it for brushing the pears)
2 cinnamon sticks
1 orange, zest only
1.For the rough puff pastry, measure the flour into a bowl and grate the butter and lard into the flour (this is the point where you'll believe that you are about to succumb to frostbite, shake it off). Use a knife to coat the butter and lard in the flour. Add 120-150ml/4-5fl oz cold water and mix until it comes together to form a firm dough (I erred on the lower side, and the dough was just about right, but it will depend on the warmth and humidity of your kitchen).
2. Roll out the pastry on a floured work surface to a rectangle. Fold the top third down and then fold the bottom third up and over. Turn it 90 degrees (a quarter turn) and repeat the rolling and folding. Set aside, covered, in the fridge for 20 minutes.
3. Repeat the rolling, folding and chilling twice more so you have a total of four folds and turns. Set aside, wrapped in cling film, in the fridge until ready to use (at least another 20 minutes).
4. Meanwhile, for the poached pears, peel the pears, keeping the stems intact. Tip the caster sugar into a large saucepan with 400ml/14fl oz water, the white wine, cinnamon and orange zest and slowly bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Boil for three minutes.
5. Add the pears to the pan. Bring back to the boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Reserving the syrup, remove the pears from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool on kitchen paper. Using a melon baller or small teaspoon remove the core from the pears (see comment above).
7. Return the syrup to the heat and boil rapidly for 10-15 minutes until the volume of the liquid is reduced by half and the syrup is thick. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
8. When the fruit and syrup are cool (read - completely cold), roll out the chilled pastry to a rectangle measuring 60x20cm/23½x8in and a thickness of no more than 5mm/¼in.
9. Using a sharp knife and a ruler cut the pastry into long strips 8mm/⅓in wide (I think my strips could have been a litte narrower, but 8mm is a funny size to try to eyeball!). You will need about 18-20 strips.
10. Brush the pears with the cooled sugar syrup and starting from the bottom, wrap the pastry strips around the pears (I found it was easiest to stuff the end of the strip into where the core was to get me started, but I fear that this is not the orthodox method). When you come to the end of the pastry strip, brush the end lightly with syrup and press to adhere to the next pastry strip. Continue wrapping until you reach the top of the pear. (Three strips should cover each pear (or one strip for each of my mini-pears)). Tuck the end of the last pastry piece behind the previous dough spiral.
11. Cut out six leaf shapes from the remaining pastry. Draw veins on the leaves with a sharp knife and stick one leaf below the stem of each pastry pear, with a little sugar syrup (I used a cutter. And I didn't draw lines - half of the leaves fell off in the oven anyway!).
12. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C(Fan)/400F/Gas 6. Place the pastry covered pears on a baking tray. Brush the pastry with beaten egg and sprinkle with the granulated sugar. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
13. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10-15 minutes then serve with a drizzle of the reduced sugar syrup.
I used the leftover rough puff to make a cheeky blackberry galette.
I am entering this post in Supergolden Bakes #GBBO Bake Along and Mummy Mishaps Great Bloggers Bake Off 2014