This dessert brings to mind my friend’s mantra:
I had (operative word: “had”) a strong attachment to the idea that making aspics was tricky, too, too, tricky for me to even think about making…. until…. I made one in culinary school, and then the attachment vanished. HECK – it’s easy! Really, it’s practically fool proof. And, when it comes to desserts, I want easy. The attachment I have to the idea of B-A-K-I-N-G is even stronger, and sad to say it has not yet vanished, I’m working on it, tho.
I came up with this recipe just this past weekend when I had leftover cake ‘dough’ from my cooking demo at Atherton Appliance. I needed to use it and –I’m not sure how it happened, but it happens often– a vision of this dessert came to mind. Chuck Todd, the Graphics Art Editor at the Contra Costa Times once told me, when coaching me on drawing, “see” the image on the paper and trace what you ‘see.’ And that’s just what I find myself doing when creating dishes. This time I saw a white chewy crust with a soft spiced-looking gelatin.
Sweet-Spiced Pear Aspic with vanilla cake mix crust
Note: this recipe requires a bit of attention and time — it has 3 stages: bake, simmer and refrigerate. AND — no, you can’t taste the flavor of the white beans.
- 1 box/bag of white cake mix (I used the one shown in pic, below)
- 1 can of white beans (see pic, below)
- 1 cup toasted pecan pieces
- 4 pears (or apples), chopped, small pieces
- 2 cups water (other liquid can be used, such as: coconut milk, apple juice)
- 2 tsp agar agar powder
- 2 tsp Chinese 5 spice
- 2 large Medjool dates, chopped (or 2 tbls date pieces)
Directions, stage one of three, bake:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Put parchment paper on the bottom of an 8-inch non-stick springform pan, set aside.
- Blend the can of beans in a food processor until creamy.
- Add to the cake mix in a mixing bowl, blend well. Or, add the mix to the food processor and blend well.
- Add the pecan pieces and mix gently.
- Pour mixture into springform pan (with parchment paper), spread evenly.
- Bake at 350 for 15 minutes, or until firm.
- Separate the cake from the wall of the springform by scraping a knife along the inside wall of the springform pan. Best to do this while the crust is still warm.
- Set aside, let cool.
Stage two of three, simmer:
- Chop the pears, place in a 2-quart sauce pan.
- Add the water and spice, heat until simmering.
- Add the agar and let cook on low simmer until the agar dissolves.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool but not get too firm, about 15 minutes.
Stage three of three, refrigerate:
- Pour the pear mixture on top of the (cooled) crust. Be sure to smooth out the bubbles(!).
- Refrigerate until firm, at least 4 hours.
- Use a rubber spatula (a thin one is best), scrap gently along the inside wall of the springform to separate the aspic away from the sides of the springform.
- Undo the hinge and remove the springform.
- Use a pie spatula to get between the parchment paper and bottom of the springform. Slide the paper to a serving plate.
- Slice and serve with hot tea.
Tea pairing: an earthy tea like Kukicha Twig Tea will go well with this dessert. The Chinese 5 Spice is strong, so, a light green tea, a jasmine tea, or english breakfast will go well, too. Sweet tasting teas or other spiced teas will not go as well.