Tomorrow I'm in charge of desserts and I've narrowed it down to the final contenders. Rest assured tonight there will be lots of sweet-talking as I'll be up to my elbows in butter and sugar.
Baked Pears Stuffed with Almonds, Orange and Chocolate in Flaky Pastry
Taken from Jamie's Kitchen; serves 4
4 perfectly ripe pears [or substitute poached apples or nectarines]
1½ oz. blanched almonds
5½ oz. butter
1¾ oz. sugar
zest of 1 orange
seeds from 1 vanilla bean
2½ oz. best-quality bittersweet chocolate [70% cocoa solids]
16 sheets of filo pastry, defrosted if frozen
Preheat oven to 325º F. Carefully peel the pears and carve out each core from the bottom [same for poached apples; with nectarines, remove the pits carefully], which will give you a hole about 1½ inches deep.
Put your blanched almonds into a food processor until very fine. Place in a bowl with 5 tablespoons of the butter, the sugar and the orange zest. Add vanilla seeds and mix until smooth. Bash up the chocolate into small pieces and add to mixture. Divide into 4 balls and put to one side.
Melt the remaining butter in a pan for brushing onto the filo pastry. Dampen a clean dish towel and wring it out—use this to cover the unused filo pastry so it doesn't become dry and brittle. Working with one piece at a time, brush a sheet with melted butter. The sheets may be about 12" x 17", so cut in half for 12" x 8½" pieces. Lay the next sheet of pastry on top and repeat until you have 4 brushed layers. Cut the layered pastry down to an 8" x 8" square.
Take one ball of almond mix and fill in the pear's hole, packing the excess filling around the pear's base. Place pear in the middle of the filo sqaure, then gather up the pastry around the stalk and pinch tight. You can leave it looking rustic and floppy as this will look lovely once it's cooked. Repeat process with other 3 pears.
Brush the outside of the pastry with any remaining melted butter, then bake on parchment-lined baking sheet for 25-30 minutes, until the pastry is golden and crisp. Serve with fromage frais, crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream.
Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie with Maple Whipped Cream
From Gwyneth Paltrow's GOOP; serves 6
1 cup of graham cracker crumbs [1 sleeve, ground in the food processor]
1 tablespoon sugar
5 tablespoons melted butter
1 pint vanilla ice cream, softened
1 can pureed pumpkin or 1¾ cups fresh
¼ teaspoon each ground allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves
Maple Whipped Cream, recipe below
Preheat the oven to 350º F. Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter in a pie pan. Mix together with your fingers and press evenly to cover the bottom and sides of the pan. It helps to press the mixture with the bottom of a small measuring cup. Bake for ten minutes or until light brown. Let cool while you prepare the filling.
In a large bowl, beat together the ice cream, pumpkin and spices. Spread evenly into the cooled pie shell and stick in the freezer for at least three hours before serving.
To make the Maple Whipped Cream, whip 1 cup heavy cream using a standing mixer, handheld mixer or whisk until stiff peaks form. Whisk in 2 to 3 tablespoons real Vermont maple syrup to taste. When ready to serve, spread the top with Maple Whipped Cream.
What's cooking for your Thanksgiving feast?