My father’s favourite dessert with pears, ginger and dough
If there is one thing that my father cherishes from the Amsterdam-Jewish ancestry on his mother’s side, then it is this dessert that he often makes himself.
It’s called “Peren & Kuchel” in Dutch/Yiddish and that means ‘pears and cake’ but that does not really describe it well as the ‘cake’ is a ball of dough that slowly cooks in the pear-liquid.
A main ingredient is ginger, balls of preserved ‘stem’ ginger that you can buy in jars in the Netherlands but that I had to prepare myself here in the south of France *. And ginger, in any form, is a favourite of my father. He also has a sweet tooth so the combination goes well for him.
It is a dessert but very filling and can be eaten alone, reheated, with or without some ice cream.
For the pears
1.5 kg of cooking pears (red-cooking like ‘Wilde Giezeman’ or ‘Saint Rémy’; unavailable here at the moment.), 150 gr. fine brown sugar, a teaspoon of cinnamon, a dash of lemon juice.
Skin, quarter and de-core the pears. Put the ingredients in a pan, cover with water and slowly cook until half-finished (an hour or so)
For the dough
400 gr. of flour, 150 gr. fine sugar, 250 gr. of butter, 100 gr. of soaked raisins, 100 gr. of sliced preserved ginger with a large helping of its liquid, a lemon peel, some salt and 1.5 cup of tepid water.
Mix the ingredients — you may need to soften the butter first — into a sticky ball of dough, that can take 10 minutes.
When the pears are half-done, lower the dough into the liquid in the pan, cover it with liquid as much as possible and cook on a very low flame for another four to five hours in a covered pan (no liquid may escape).
The dish is even better if you let it cool and reheat another day, in an oven as its burns easily at the bottom.
Serve warm, not hot.
- Peel fresh root ginger, cut in small parts or balls, cook in water for an hour, drain and keep the liquid for another use. Cool, put in a jar and cover with fine sugar. Set aside in the fridge for several days before using — you should then have bits of soft ginger floating in liquid.