SHF #35: Pear and Fig Charlotte

It's been a while since I've participated in this event but I thought I would take part in the fig edition that Ivonne is hosting.

Pear and Fig Charlotte (1)Pear and Fig Charlotte (2)My entry is a charlotte made with pears and figs from a recipe found in Desserts by Pierre Hermé by Dorie Greenspan. The cake recipes in this book tend to be lengthy, multi-step affairs so I split up the task over several days. Earlier in the week, I prepared the canned pears by submerging them in a mixture of simple syrup, lemon juice and a vanilla bean. Next, I soaked the dried figs in boiling water to soften them. I drained them after a day in the fridge so that they wouldn't lose all of their flavour. The liquor store did not have any poire william and I didn't want to buy any artificial pear vodka or liquor so I settled for making the soaking syrup using pear nectar combined with plain vodka. For the poire william cream, the recipe calls for making a bavarian cream flavoured with a purée of the pears and pear brandy (I substituted with apple brandy).

Charlottes are usually made with ladyfingers and these little piped cakes gave me trouble. I ran into the same problem that I encountered last time: the ladyfingers browned before they were fully baked. After discarding this batch, I tried making the recipe from the Art of Cakes tiramisù class. I piped the fingers much thicker, and reduced the oven temperature to about 400°F. These turned out better, but still looked deflated as they cooled.

Once all the components are made, assembly is easy, of course. Fit the ladyfinger band around the sides of a cake ring and place the disc in the bottom. Brush with the soaking syrup, fill halfway with the cream, then cover with the chopped dried figs and vanilla-infused pears. Pour the remaining cream over and top with the other ladyfinger disc. Garnish with sliced fresh figs and more pears.

We took this to a park by the lake and served it al fresco on a picnic bench. My relatives devoured it in record time. The pear flavour is wonderful and the tiny seeds of the figs provide a nice surprise. In this charlotte, figs had a secondary, but important supporting role, but it is a testament to M. Hermé's genius to be able to creatively combine and highlight flavours and textures.

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