This is a dessert that has comfort food as its default position. It obviously comes from European technique but also incorporates flavours you’d find in Asia.
- 250g (9oz) caster (superfine) sugar
- 8 pieces stem ginger in syrup, drained
- 75g (2 ¾oz) butter
- 60g (2oz) dark muscovado sugar
- 200g (7oz) golden syrup (light corn syrup)
- 1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 125ml (4fl oz/½ cup) milk
- 1 egg
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda), dissolved in 80 ml (2 ½ fl oz/⅓ cup) warm water
- 150g (5½ oz/1 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
- 230g (8oz/1 cup firmly packed) brown sugar
- 60ml (2fl oz/¼ cup) lemon juice
- 3 beurre bosc pears, peeled, halved and cored
- 2 egg yolks
- 3 Tbsp caster (superfine) sugar
- 2 Tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)
- 2 vanilla beans, seeds scraped
- 250ml (8½fl oz/1 cup) milk
- 250ml (8½fl oz/1 cup) pouring (single/light) cream
For the poached pears, combine 750ml (25½fl oz/3 cups) water, the sugar and lemon juice in a stainless steel saucepan over low heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved.
Add the pears and place a round of greaseproof (waxed) paper on the surface of the poaching liquid to keep the pears submerged. Simmer very gently for 10–12 minutes or until the pears are tender. Remove from the heat and leave the pears to cool in the syrup.
To make the vanilla cream, in a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, cornflour and vanilla seeds until smooth and well combined.
In a small stainless steel saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk to a simmer. Whisk one-third of the hot milk into the egg mixture to ‘temper’ or stabilise it, then pour the egg mixture back into the pan with the milk, whisking constantly until the custard has thickened.
Pour it into a bowl and lay a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cool.
When ready to use the vanilla cream, take 190ml (6½fl oz/¾ cup) of the vanilla cream from the refrigerator and whisk it well to break down any lumps.
In another bowl, whip the cream to soft peaks and fold it into the vanilla cream. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
Preheat the oven to 170°C (340°F).
In a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat, melt the caster sugar until it is a golden caramel, then spread 2tsp of this toffee into each of six 12cm (4 ¾ in), lined, heavy-based baking dishes. Alternatively, use on 28cm (11 in) ceramic baking dish. Let the caramel set hard.
Slice each poached pear half into 4 wedges.
Cut the stem ginger into thin slices.
Distribute the pear and ginger slices evenly on top of the set caramel.
In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, muscovado sugar, golden syrup, fresh ginger and cinnamon. Remove from the heat and leave to cool to room temperature.
In a bowl, whisk together the milk, egg and bicarbonate of soda, followed by the cooled butter mixture.
Put the flour in a large bowl and whisk in the wet ingredients until well combined. Pour 80ml (2½fl oz/⅓ cup) of this gingerbread mixture evenly over the ginger and pear in the lined pans.
Bake for 20–22 minutes until just cooked.
Serve with the vanilla cream.