Saturday, October 20, 2007

can't have one without the other!

how could i introduce my favourite season of (f)all with apples, and not follow without pears ....

apples and pears have always been two of my favourite fruit when it comes to baking. especially when paired with almonds or almond paste. this post, however, doesn't include pears as in the REAL fruit. here you will learn to actually make pears!

it is a sephardic recipe, passed on to me from an aunt. the recipe obviously has spanish/iberian roots as it uses ground almonds and orange flower water, the former the essential building block for massapan (or in english, marzipan), a favourite item used in sefardi baking.

one thing i do insist on telling you for making this recipe, is to use orange flower water and not omit it. it just does not have the same flavour it is supposed to have without it. rose water is not acceptable here as a substitute either. sorry folks .... some things just aren't meant to be changed or substituted without serious compromise of both taste and authenticity.

apart from that pettiness, they are very easy to make and go very quickly if you have all your ingredients near you. it goes even faster if you have help! the recipe is a non-dairy one and can, i imagine, be made without the egg whites if you use one of those egg (white) replacer items or make the flax seed replacement. don't use water as a substitute or you'll get a gummy product due to inclusion of the semolina ('cream of wheat' not durum semolina flour).

peras de massapan (almond pears)

not as rich as pure marzipan, these über-cute baby pears make a statement and are perfect for introducing fall into your home. once baked, they have a nice shell covered in confectioners sugar hiding a soft interior & a whole blanched almond. redolent of the smells of spain, these will have you longing for its coast as you feel the chill of autumn set in.


2 3/4 c (250 g / 8.8 oz*) of finely ground almond**
1/4 c (40 g) + 2 heaped tbsp sugar
1/4 c semolina (wheatlets/sooji/smeed/solet)
3 + 1 capfuls of orange blossom water (absolutely necessary)
1 tsp almond extract
2 tsp grated orange rind, opt
2 small egg whites or 1 1/2 large egg whites***

16 whole blanched almonds
16 whole cloves

3/4 c (6 oz / 185 g) confectioners (icing) sugar

*oz by weight not volume!
** the measure is for already ground almonds
***you can use egg white replacer but you have to figure out yourself how much you need


preheat oven to 350F (180C).

place the ground almonds, sugar and semolina in a bowl and mix together. add the orange rind if using.

make a little well in the center and add ONLY 3 full capfuls of orange flower water. don't mix yet.

beat the egg whites with a fork to slightly to break them up. add them on top of the orange flower water.

mix everything together. the texture should be slightly dry.

if it's wet you had the wrong sized egg whites or mis-measured your dry ingredients. to test if it's right, it should clump nicely together when pressed into a small ball. if it doesn't or is wet, then correct it by adding a bit more egg white or ground almonds. you can also add A BIT more semolina.

now add the last capful of orange flower water and 1 tsp almond extract and mix well. it should make a ball which is moist and only slightly sticky.

fill a little dish with about 3 tbsp of orange flower water and keep a teaspoon in it.

have your cloves and almonds by you also to form the pears.

procedure as follows (but read through first):

divide the dough into 16 equal pieces. they should be about a large tablespoon or so each. never measured so i have no clue.

wash your hands off and dry them well. take a 1/2 tsp of orange flower water and rub your hands with it. (rewet them as necessary —this serves to add extra flavour and to keep the dough from sticking to your hands). then, take a piece of dough and roll it into a ball.

you can also use a little bit of vegetable oil instead to grease your hands ; i prefer the orange flower water.

there are 2 methods for the shape:

shaping method a:

take one almond and stuff up its bottom {oh, my!} and make sure it is enclosed. this is done to give its body extra bulk and to include a little surprise inside!

close up the bottom.

now, make a little neck and shape it into a pear. it should sort of look like a mini bowling pin.

shaping method b:

alternately, you can form all the pears first using both hands, rolling a ball and then, still using both hands twisting the balls and elongating its neck to make it pear shaped. wish i could have included how but hard to take a picture when both hands are in action! at this point, make all the pears and then stuff the almond in the lower half and enclose it.

whether you chose method a or b, take a clove and gently press it with ball/claw side down so the end is sticking out like a miniature stem.

once shaped, adjust the neck and body shape slightly to make it appealing. they should pretty much retain their shapes as they bake.

place these on an oiled sheet or on parchment. if you don't, they will stick and you'll have problems getting them off.

bake them for 10 minutes @ 350F and then about 5 - 6 minutes at 375F. they should still be whitish and the top of the pears a little browned. the bottoms will brown.

after taking them out of the oven, let them sit and cool down slightly. they should be warm but not hot.

while still warm, very important, roll them in confectioner's (icing) sugar until they are well coated.

place on a plate to finish cooling. they must sit for at least 2 to 4 hours before eating. sometimes, these are garnished with a fine sprinkling of cinnamon (not my fave) or cocoa — but literally, only a dusting of it.



sarita said...

such beatiful little ones!have to make them for december orange blossom water the same as agua de azahar?and...can i substitute semolina-still haven't found it here-for more ground almonds, like in plain mazapán?
if this is just a standard week, i can't wait to see what you'll post for hanuká! :0

burekaboy — said...

hi sarita - thank you :) es la misma cosa, ofw = agua de azahar. not sure if it will work the same way texturally without using semolina but i don't see why not. maybe you'll be able to find it by december ;0 or try making only half of this amount to test it out. me parece extraño que no podrias econtrarlo allá todavía (tal vez todavía no has buscadolo). aqui selo compre muy facilmente. haha hannukah starts early this year too, i better start thinking up what to make! ;)

titus said...

I don't even like marzapan, but these look scrumptious! They are just magnificent!

burekaboy — said...

titus - lol, such compliments! ;) actually, these are not as strongly flavoured or grainy as pure marzipan due to the semolina. i can only eat pure marzipan in measured amounts myself, so i hear what your saying. thanks for the very nice words :)

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Those marzipan pears look ever so cute and scrumptious! I love "massepain" and could eat tons of it!

During the "Escalade" (a historical day), in Geneva, we can buy chocolate "marmite" filled with marzipan vegetables and fruits. A gorgeous treat ;-P!!!



burekaboy — said...

hi rosa - thank you :) i used to be able to eat tons of it but lately not really ;o

have never heard of 'escalade'. that marmite must be really cute filled with all those marzipan treats. i guess you won't be cooking soup in the marmite, though! LOL.

Anonymous said...

Ok, this has to be #1 Algerian cookie I love! :-D

burekaboy — said...

hi jamila - didn't know this was an algerian thing, too ;) then again, it makes sense, since it's not that far from spain.... thanks for the comment (and 'see you' soon in your blog!)

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

No ;-P! It's made of chocolate so it'd be very difficult to fill it up with soup, hehe!!! If you want to learn more about the "Escalade", here's a link:

Anonymous said...

I cannot find orange blossom water or rose water (to make your Iraqi almond cookies) with a hechsher in Toronto. Do you know of a kosher brand?


burekaboy — said...

deanna - getting hechshered orange blossom water and rose water can be difficult since many of the manufacturers are in "arab" countries and don't really have a big enough demand to pay for the certification.

to be honest, many of us use it without the hechsher since it's not likely to have anything non kosher in it. i'll take a look in some of the shops (kosher sefardi) around me and see what they have. i know they for sure have it.

i have a feeling the french one, made by a. monteux is kosher. it comes in a blue bottle and you can usually find it at gourmet shops.

check out "amira" online and email them. their brand may actually have a hechsher (many of their products do). also, check with your (sefardi) rav to see if you really need a hechsher for it. additionally, call the va'ad ha'ir of toronto and ask them. most likely they can tell you brands which are okay.

failing all that, if you know of anyone taking a trip to israel, get them to bring you back a supply (more than 1 bottle each, of course!).

hope that helps! if i find any here, i'll email you.

Alisa said...

Those little pears are absolutely beautiful. I don't know if I could eat them, they look more like a work of art!

burekaboy — said...

alisa - thank you for your nice comment :) much appreciated.

Urban said...

hmmmm...'Pears' has some serious competition out here!hey, as this is Diwali time, wanted to share with you this fact. i have seen sweets (mithai)in the shape of micro-mini apples,mangoes and also beetel leaf! however, they are made up of AP flour and sugar only. (also,maybe khoya).your ingredients are widely different!and on that note-Wish you a very Happy and 'sparkling' Diwali!May the lights of this auspicious festival fill your life with eternal glow....and you be blessed with peace and happiness......
warm regards-Urban

burekaboy — said...

hey there urban - thanks for your really nice wishes :) i hope your celebration is a very sweet one filled with lots of light, too! i am sure you will eat very well in the sweets department over the next week or so. i'm jealous!!

those little fruits must be so cute and hard to eat because they were most likely made by hand, painstakingly. a beetel leaf, too! that one must be an interesting sight.

happy celebrations to you and your family, UB!