I’m a big mark for Patton Oswalt. Of course he’s funny, sometimes scathingly so, but what I like most about him is the degree of reflection he puts into any interview he gives. He’s been making the rounds to promote his new book Zombie Spaceship Wasteland, so I caught him on a couple of podcasts recently — The BS Report with Bill Simmons and WTF with Marc Maron (which you must subscribe to, if you don’t already). Aaaaanyway, Oswalt made a great observation on The BS Report while discussing his work as a script doctor. He said he learned early on that movie remakes can be done well, provided they aren’t too faithful to the original. That if you explore the story from a tangent — and remake rather than retell — the new project isn’t so burdened and can become its own thing, possibly more interesting than the source material.
I agree fully with this approach, having experienced it repeatedly while struggling to make old favorites gluten-free. Some recipes handle the noodling better than others, but the simple fact is GF baked goods NEVER will be the same as ones made with wheat. And once I accepted that fact and moved on, I learned to love my food for what it is instead of moaning about what it can’t be.
In that spirit, I had a craving for tiramisu early in the week, wanted to make it gluten-free, and started pondering. You’d think finding an alternative to ladyfingers would be a big problem, but it really wasn’t; I stayed faithful to the original idea with mascarpone and cocoa, but remade the dessert into something new by using roasted pears as the base.
A quick search turned up a recipe for roasted pears on Smitten Kitchen, whose seal of approval is all the convincing I need to try a new dish. I sliced up both red bartlett pears and bosc, then adjusted the sugar down a bit, knowing they’d have to contend with a sweet topping later on.
When the pears came out of the oven they were perfect specimens of roasted pearhood, so even if I’d stopped there, toes would’ve curled and plates would’ve been licked. As you can see, the red bartletts were beautifully caramelized after an hour in the oven:
The boscs retained more of their juices and didn’t caramelize quite as much, but still were gorgeous and delicious in their own right:
But I just couldn’t stop there, since the milky, creamy part is what I love most about tiramisu. I didn’t want espresso in the mascarpone cream to overwhelm the delicate pears, so I worked up a rich version with amaretto and vanilla bean whipped cream instead.
Toppings were simple: I tried one version with cocoa powder and one without, but sprinkled both liberally with toasted ground almonds. I loved them equally and couldn’t choose a favorite any more than choosing between Rufus or Otis.
recipe after the jump
This wouldn’t be too difficult to adapt into your own dessert. I’m sure amaretti cookies would be fantastic crumbled over the pears. Try bourbon instead of amaretto, or more traditionally, use espresso. Add more sugar to either the pears or mascarpone cream; since I don’t like very sweet desserts, this might not be as sugary as you’d like it.
For the pears
4 pears, any type
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon vanilla sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
For the mascarpone cream
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 vanilla bean
1 cup mascarpone
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons amaretto liqueur
1/4 teaspoon almond extract, optional
toasted ground almonds
Make the pears
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Peel pears if you like (I didn’t), halve them lengthwise and core. Place cut side up in a roasting pan and sprinkle with lemon juice. Sprinkle sugar evenly over pear halves and dot with butter. Pour water into the roasting pan and bake pears for 30 minutes, basting with pan juices a few times. Flip pears over and bake an additional 30 minutes, basting with pan juices a few times. Pears are ready when a knife slips easily into the thickest part. Allow pears to cool to room temperature before topping with cream.
Make the mascarpone cream
Pour whipping cream into a small bowl. Slice vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape seeds into the cream, stirring to evenly distribute. Add bean to cream. Cover bowl and refrigerate for at least an hour, along with the bowl and beater of an electric stand mixer.
Just before serving, pour cream through a fine mesh strainer into the chilled mixing bowl. Add mascarpone, powdered sugar, amaretto and almond extract and beat on medium high until soft peaks form.
Top a pear half with a dollop of mascarpone cream. Add any or all of the finishing ingredients to taste.