Salted Caramel Pecan Pears

Temps des Fêtes 2011
food and drink

BY: Nicole Young

It’s been delighting hip European drinkers for a decade, but only since 2009 have we fallen under its spell. Xante liqueur (LCBO 227611) has a long and storied history steeped in secrets, political unrest and war. The recipe is actually centuries old, created and kept hidden within a Belgian Benedictine monastery until 1894, when it was divulged to distiller Jean Heinrich. But the Heinrich family didn’t share, enjoying this unique drink privately until a decade ago when the recipe went into commercial production. This smooth, golden blend of Belgian pears and French Cognac is aged for four years in French oak, bringing out its natural sweetness and offering undertones of spice and vanilla. Enjoyed with Salted Caramel Pecan Pears, it’s a match made in heaven, wonderfully light and delicate. A touch of salt brings out the best in both. Oh, and its pronounced zan-tay. These pears are deceptively decadent and very simple for a sweet bite at the end of an indulgent meal. Try substituting apples for the pears. Or, if you are in a hurry, just serve the pears with the caramel and you have a lovely little fondue.

1 cup (250 mL) sugar
6 tbsp (90 mL) salted butter
½ cup (125 mL) 35% whipping cream
½ tsp (2 mL) vanilla
½ tsp (2 mL) coarse salt
2 large, ripe, firm pears
½ cup (125 mL) finely chopped toasted pecans or hazelnuts

1 In a heavy-bottom saucepan, melt sugar over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it reaches a rich copper colour, about 18 minutes.

2 Immediately stir in all the butter until it has completely melted; remove from heat.Slowly pour in the cream (carefully, as the mixture will splatter slightly), vanilla and salt. Stir until well blended. Let cool.

3 Slice each pear into 8 wedges, removing the seeds and core. Pour pecans into a shallow dish. Dip each pear wedge into the caramel until completely covered and then toss it in the pecans, turning, to evenly coat. Transfer the pears to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with all the pear wedges.

4 Let pears set in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or up to 1 day. Transfer the remaining caramel to a dish, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Warm sauce in microwave for about 30 seconds and serve with pear wedges.

Makes 16 pieces (8 servings)

What to Serve