They’re not grown in our backyard, but we love them just the same. The time is ripe for pears. USA Pears, the industry group responsible for letting you know that pears are good stuff, asked Hedy a couple of years ago to create some recipes using this “most interesting fruit” as an ingredient. I learned something yesterday, too. Hedy is actually allergic to apples and so pears are her favorite go-to autumn fruit, especially Bartletts.
When the pear people were planning to come to town this month, of course they rung Hedy again, this time to do a special tasting of pear desserts for a small group in our private dining room. I was there to document, and for quality control of course (!), so here are the pictures for your viewing enjoyment. Luckily, my favorite panini so far in the Hedy Goldsmith arsenal – inspired by Spain and tasted for the first time last night – is available to you in easy enough recipe form below. Challah and membrillo lovers will rejoice in this new incarnation, and those unfamiliar may find a new sweet to crush on.
Pear Panini with Manchego, Membrillo & Marcona Almond Praline
By Executive Pastry Chef Hedy Goldsmith
8 slices brioche or challah
4 Bartlett Pears, peeled and cut into 1/8-inch slices
8 tablespoons membrillo quince paste
4 tablespoons dulce de leche
4 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
12 manchego cheese slices
1 cup Marcona Almond Praline (recipe below)
4 tablespoons room temperature butter
4 tablespoons cinnamon sugar
Preheat oven 300˚ F and a panini press to 375˚ F.
Arrange the eight slices of brioche on a work surface. Spread a thick layer of membrillo on the top of four brioche; spread the remaining four with dulce de leche. Divide the pears evenly on the dulce de leche brioche. Drizzle the pears with sweetened condensed milk and sprinkle with the fleur de sel. Divide the praline on the four membrillo-covered slices. Top the praline with three slices of manchego each. Carefully match up two alternating slices, making four panini, pressing them down with the palm of your hand to help them press evenly.
Spread butter on the top of each panini, and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar; flip and repeat on the other side. Placing two at a time on the hot press, close the lid and cook 7-8 minutes or until the tops are caramelized. Repeat with the remaining panini, placing the cooked ones on a sheet pan. Once complete, place the full sheet pan in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until all the cheese is melted. Slice into halves or quarters, top with confectioners sugar. Serve with a drizzle of balsamic syrup.
Marcona Almond Praline
Yields 1½ cups
½ cup sugar
1-cup Marcona almonds
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Prepare a baking sheet lined with a non-stick liner, and an offset spatula sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and water over a medium heat. Stir occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil, add the nuts and stir. Continue to boil for about 5 minutes until the sugar begins to caramelize. Cook for another 5-6 minutes, stirring until the sugar is a dark amber color. Remove from the heat. Carefully stir in the butter and the salt. Pour the nuts on to the baking sheet. Spread evenly with the spatula into a thin layer. Allow to cool for about 1 hour.
In a food processor, pulse the praline several times. The nuts should be slightly chunky but bite sized. Use immediately or store for up to one week in an airtight container.