We've been enjoying a wonderful, relaxing holiday, interspersed with the occasional lively party, and here we are at New Year's Eve already. I never planned an intentional break from blogging, but between the Christmas festivities and settling into our now home, I hardly touched a computer for days.
Don't worry, I documented the highlights from all the feasting over the last few weeks, and will be bringing them to you without delay!
First up, here is a dessert worthy of a New Year's Eve dessert table: a white chocolate mascarpone mousse layered with white wine poached pears and lady fingers. It's rather regal, standing proudly in a lovely trifle bowl, and the billowing layers of mascarpone mousse & whipped cream topping make it a pretty winter dessert. I'm a huge trifle fan (some people just are or they aren't, so I am discovering) and this version tops the 'decadent' scale with it's addition of creamy mascarpone -yum!- and sophisticated spiced poached pears -yum yum!
It's also a spectacular do-ahead dessert, which we all love, right? I actually spaced out the work and made it over three days, starting with the poached pears on the first day, then the mouse and assembly on the second, and finally, on the third day, added the whipped cream topping and candied ginger just before serving.
The flavors actually improve after spending a night together in the fridge--the only challenge is finding the space! I feel like I've been playing Refrigerator Tetris for the last two weeks, trying to juggle the items in my jam packed fridge so that everything fits. All I can say is, open at your own risk, as some items may have shifted during the flight-er, night!
We are indeed, very blessed to have an abundance of good food. While 2009 was not an easy year for us in many way, we are exceedingly thankful for all that we do have and look forward to 2010 with excitement and anticipation!
I'll be making an announcement early in the year about a new project that I am thrilled to be a part of, so look for that coming soon!!
Have a safe and fun New Year's Eve!
White Chocolate Tiramisu Trifle with Spiced Pears
adapted from Bon Appetit, December 2007; via Ashley of Not Without Salt
1 750-ml bottle dry white wine
2 cups pear juice - I used apple
1 1/4 cups sugar
12 whole green cardamom pods, crushed in resealable plastic bag with mallet
4 1-inch-diameter rounds peeled fresh ginger (each about 1/8 inch thick)
2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
7 large firm but ripe Anjou pears (3 to 31/4 pounds), peeled
White Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse:
7 ounces high-quality white chocolate (such as Lindt or Perugina), finely chopped
1/3 cup poire Williams (pear brandy) - I used apple liquor
1/4 cup water
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 8- to 8.8-ounce container mascarpone cheese
1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream
3 3-ounce packages soft ladyfingers, separated
2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
3-4 candied ginger rounds
For spiced pears:
Combine first 6 ingredients in large saucepan. Stir over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves. Add pears and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and simmer until pears are just tender when pierced with knife, about 35 minutes. Transfer liquid with pears to large bowl and refrigerate until cold, about 3 hours. Using slotted spoon, transfer pears to plate. Boil poaching liquid in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat until slightly thickened and reduced to generous 1 1/2 cups, about 15 minutes. Strain into 2-cup measuring cup; discard spices in strainer. Cool. Cover and chill pears and pear syrup until cold.
For mousse: Combine white chocolate, pear or apple brandy, and 1/4 cup water in top of double boiler set over simmering water. (You can also do this in the microwave for 30 sec. increments – be very careful not to overheat) Stir until smooth (mixture will be very liquidy). Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; discard bean. Transfer white chocolate mixture to large bowl; gradually add mascarpone, whisking until mixture is smooth. Cool mascarpone mixture until barely lukewarm. Using electric mixer, beat 1 cup cream in medium bowl until peaks form. Fold whipped cream into mascarpone mixture in 4 additions. Cover and chill white chocolate mousse until set, about 3 hours.
DO AHEAD: Pears and mousse can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.
For trifle assembly: Cut pears lengthwise in half and remove cores and stems; cut halves lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange ladyfingers, rounded sides down, in single layer in bottom of 12-cup trifle dish (about 8 inches in diameter and 5 inches deep), covering bottom completely (using about 15 ladyfingers). Drizzle 5 tablespoons pear syrup evenly over ladyfingers. Using small offset spatula, spread 1/3 of white chocolate mousse over ladyfingers, making layer slightly thicker around outer edges of dish to allow mousse to be more visible (center of mousse layer will be thin). Starting at outer edges of dish, place pear slices in single layer with curved edges against sides of dish atop mousse, covering completely. Repeat layering of ladyfingers, syrup, mousse, and pears 2 more times. Cover with fourth layer of ladyfingers (some ladyfingers and pear slices may be left over). Drizzle ladyfingers evenly with 5 tablespoons syrup.
DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead.
Cover and refrigerate trifle and remaining pear syrup separately. Using electric mixer, beat 2 cups whipping cream in large bowl until soft peaks form. Add 1/4 cup pear syrup and beat until stiff peaks form. Working in batches, transfer cream to large pastry bag fitted with large star tip. Pipe rosettes all over top of trifle, mounding slightly in center. Sprinkle with crystallized ginger.
DO AHEAD: Can be made 6 hours ahead. Keep refrigerated.