This time of year my oven is rarely off. My mind swells with satisfaction as the scent of cinnamon and ginger dance through the air mingling with the subtle pine scent wafting from our Christmas tree. It’s a joyous time when something inside me longs to bake each and every day. Rather than acquiring the extra holiday pounds that jiggles like a bowl full of jelly, mimicking that of ol’ St. Nick, I happily share my homemade treats spreading sweet joy to family, friends and neighbors.
This season offers a bounty of flavors that love being folded into a rich batter or snuggling up under the heat of the oven. Apples rest under a blanket of sweet and nutty crumble or lay on a bed of buttery-rich dough. Pumpkin gets folded into everything from pancakes to loaf cakes. And my most recent spicy obsession is poached pears. After shedding their skin they get dunked into a warm bath of wine, juice and spices. They tumble around in a simmering broth soaking up the fragrant liquid and return with a soft and tender texture.
Poaching is simply the process of gently simmering food in a liquid. This basic cooking technique is often reserved for fragile food items such as eggs, fish, poultry and fruit. Because of the fragile nature of these foods it is important to keep the heat low and to watch for overcooking which can cause toughness or, in the case of fruit, cause them to fall apart.
Poached pears are impressive and delicious served on their own with a drizzle of warm caramel. They also make a wonderful accompaniment to any sweet custard.
I hope this season finds you in your kitchen warmed by the heat of the oven joyfully creating dishes to be shared with the people who love you and the food you’ve prepared.
by Ashley Rodriquez
Chef, food blogger, and full-time mom. You can read more of her writings at www.notwithoutsalt.com