Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Best Intentions - Caramel Pear Trifle

Sometimes the best of intentions end in disaster. Such was the case with the Caramel Pear Trifle I had promised to make for Lesley. The original version is something of a family legend. My sister had made it for Thanksgiving, circa 1999, and no one has forgotten it since. We talk about it in hushed tones, questioning its existence as if it were some kind of mirage or great vision. Lesley had been asking for the recipe for years, and I swore up and down I would procure it from my sister, bring it over and we would make it together. In my rush to get out of the house, I did not call my sister, and picked what I thought was the right recipe off the internet, but as wiser people will tell you, you should not trust what you find on the internet. The real Caramel Pear Trifle, it was not. It was actually a much less delicious recipe.

We knew as soon as it instructed us to make a suspicious substance called "pastry cream." I thought to myself, "I don't remember that being in the original recipe," and when said cream indeed failed to become cream after following the instructions, my sneaking suspicion was confirmed. We dumped the offending concoction down the sink, and set about making real whipped cream to substitute. Total failure was averted, and the final product was good...but nowhere near as good as my sister's Caramel Pear Trifle.

And so I promised Lesley I would get the real recipe. And I did. The picture below is about what it should look like, so use that as a guide. But as with the impostor scones, this is an impostor trifle. So I will forgo that recipe and deliver you the real one below.

Again, sometimes the best of intentions end in disaster. Or, occasionally, just a sub-par trifle. If you want an exceptional trifle, just use the following recipe:

Caramel Pear Trifle
from Bon Appetite Magazine

For pears
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
6 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 2-inch strip lemon peel
4 firm but ripe pears (about 2 pounds), peeled, halved, cored

For caramel
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 cup warm whipping cream
1 1/2 cups chilled whipping cream
1 1/2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

12 1/4-inch-thick slices from purchased 12-ounce pound cake (we were ambitious and made our own vanilla pound cake from scratch, recipe to come in tomorrow's post)
Sliced almonds, toasted

Make pears: Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into large saucepan; add bean. Add 6 cups water, sugar and lemon peel. Stir over medium heat until mixture comes to simmer. Add pears; simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. Cool pears in syrup.

Make caramel: Stir 1 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat; boil without stirring until sugar turns deep amber, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with wet pastry brush, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Add 1 cup warm cream (mixture will bubble up). Return to very low heat; stir until smooth. Chill sauce uncovered until cold, about 1 hour.

Beat chilled cream, powdered sugar and vanilla in large bowl until firm peaks form. Fold 1/2 cup cold caramel sauce into cream; cover and chill remaining sauce.

Drain pears and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Arrange the pieces of cake in your serving dish. Top cake with one layer of the pears, a layer of the caramel and then the caramel cream. Repeat layering till through (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.)

Drizzle remaining caramel sauce over trifle. Sprinkle with nuts and serve.


  1. One of these days I'll tell you about my legendary bourbon-caramel peach parfait, with vanilla ice cream...