It’s a rare thing for me to make a dessert for myself when I’m eating alone. Especially one that is so wonderfully indulgent. It came into being by a roundabout route, as these things often do. I’m looking after Jonathan and Lyndsey’s dog, Zeph, for the weekend as they’ve gone to a wedding in Somerset. Jonathan sent me a text saying that when I picked Zeph up from their house, he’d left out two ripe pears for me that needed eating. They get a weekly fruit and vegetable box from Able & Cole and the produce is always so good and tasty that in all honesty, I could simply just have enjoyed the ripe pears on their own and do nothing fancy at all. But the unexpected edible gift seemed like a challenge for this food blogger: what could I do with those pears? If they were very ripe, they wouldn’t stand poaching. I could make a lovely pear sorbet – one I used to make a lot – but two pears wouldn’t go far; it would be a very small amount of sorbet. Then I remembered a dish Nicola and I had for dessert at the fabulous Balthazar’s Keuken in Amsterdam in March: toasted brioche slices with stewed plums and sweet cream. Now that was a path to follow. I thought I could lightly fry pear slices in butter and sugar to caramelise them, then sandwich them between French-toasted (i.e. with egg) brioche slices with some Chantilly cream. I bought an individual brioche from Paul bakery this morning and a small pot of double cream in the supermarket.
However, when I was picking up Zeph, so distracted was I by getting all his paraphernalia into the car and one very reluctant little Yorkie who didn’t seem to want to leave his new home, I forgot the pears. Once home, Zeph was delighted to find himself in Bella’s house again and went off in search of my poor cat. A little later I took him down the road to Sapori TW1, a local Italian cafe who welcome him fondly and I’m even allowed to sit inside (not possible in most cafes). They brought him water – which, surprisingly he drank; he won’t normally take food or water from a stranger. Ingrid though has met him before and she told me it was because they now had an understanding.
I settled down with a cappuccino and my current book – Ian McEwan’s wonderful The Children Act – while Zeph enjoyed being admired. And in my moment of relaxation it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn’t picked up the pears. Well, I wasn’t going back for them but I wanted to use the brioche and cream, so I’d have to make do with whatever fruit was at home. And thus, the toasted brioche was served with a raspberry and blueberry compote. And very good it was too!
First of all I made the compote. I put just a few berries into a pan, sprinkled over a little sugar and a dash of creme de cassis. I let it all bubble up and once the fruit was starting to break apart, I lifted it out with a slotted spoon into a small dish and then allowed the juices to bubble up and thicken more. Once well reduced, I poured them over the fruit and left it all to cool.
Then I whisked a little double cream with a teaspoon of icing sugar and the smallest amount of vanilla paste until thickened.
Then I broke 1 egg into a small bowl and added a dash of milk, a teaspoon icing sugar and a pinch of cinnamon and whisked it all together.
Now I was almost ready to go. I sliced the small brioche into three – taking just a small ‘hat’ off the top to finish the dish with at the end, and making the other two, thicker slices as even as I could.
I melted about 25g butter in a small pan till bubbling. Then I dipped each of the larger 2 slices of brioches in the egg mixture, covering both sides. I put them into the sizzling pan, turning the slices when the bottom side was nicely browned – and this happened quite quickly, so watch carefully.
I didn’t cook the top ‘hat’ slice. I transferred the cooked brioche to a cutting board, then put the bottom slice on a plate. I put on a dollop of compote followed by a dollop of Chantilly cream and then topped with the other toasted slice and repeated it all.
Finally, I put the uncooked brioche ‘hat’ on top. Wow! It did look pretty amazing, I thought.
And also rather large. How would I eat it all? Haha! Of course I ate it all; how could I not! But actually it was very very light. The brioche was light and airy to begin with and the custardy coating added an extra lightness. The slightly tart berry compote was actually perfect with the buttery and eggy brioche and sweet cream. Probably better than sweet pears would have been. It was all fun and easy to put together and even if it was indulgent, well, it is the weekend.