Tuesday was Lady and Pups’s first X’mas! And we just got back from a lovely week in Rome to spend the holiday with our kids (I assume that the away-for-days part was all forgiven once they smelled the salami treats in the luggage)… And yes, we went to Rome. Oooh stawwp it… but if you must know, it was pretty awesome. As I sort through digital-piles of photos in order to share that fantastic trip with you, I’m going to let you in on a little secret on how to have care-free, long vacations when you have 3 dog-children to care for – bribing the doggie nanny.
Jason and I have long decided that as long as the day when human-parents put their human-children in a cage to roll in their own XX and XX then spend the nights in unattended pitch-blackness hasn’t become socially acceptable, we would not do the same to our dog-children. Fortunately, throughout the years our wonderful friends didn’t mind taking them for a few days of sleep-overs (THANK YOU! Ben, Albert and Ming, and Cheline!!) despite the fact that our dogs aren’t the most… well, properly raised. But when we moved to Beijing and found temporary-extras-to-use-as-friends wasn’t in the expat-package, we decided it was time to seek professional assistance.
We are lucky enough to find a wonderful help who sends us text updates and pictures of Bado
disrupting entertaining a film-production set in our building (if Bado made the scene, as her agent I demand payment, please). So she’s great but on top of that, I thought who’d mind coming to work to sporadically find this, this and that to add to her lunch menu, and a whole box of this – vanilla bean pear bars in the fridge icebox (doesn’t this word sound extra delish?) for company while we were away?
So you’d say what’s wrong with good-old lemon bars? Well, beside being an efficient bribery for someone who isn’t into tart things (OK I assumed…), this also happens to be an amazing over-ripen pears solution. If you were like me whose husband wants to (hopefully with love) send her to a buying-in-bulk-addiction-despite-lacking-in-family-members rehab, then you’d appreciate that this is a frequent emergency that demands immediate assistance. Although over-ripen pears lack in favorable textures, they permeate with intense fragrance that makes me sniff them obsessively like how my dogs do to other less understandable things… And “peared” with vanilla seeds, a touch of honey and a bit of lemon juice for tartness, these babies are sure to take good cares of some really happy nannies.
Servings: 18 small squares
Ingredients: (adapted from Martha Stewart’s lemon bars)
- For crust:
- 1/8 cup of white sugar
- 1/8 cup of brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp of lemon zest
- 1/8 tsp of salt
- 1/2 cup (115 g) of very cold unsalted butter, cubed
- 1 cup of all-purpose flour
- For pear custard:
- 1 cup of pear puree (fully ripen)
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 cup of honey
- 1/2 cup of white sugar
- 1/8 cup + 1 tbsp of lemon juice
- Seeds from 1 vanilla bean
- 1/3 cup of all-purpose flour
- Powder sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven on 350ºF/180ºC.
In a food processor, pulse the white sugar, brown sugar, lemon zest and salt together until blended. Add the cold butter and pulse again until the sugar mixture is evenly mixed into the butter. Then add the flour and pulse until a loose and crumbly dough forms.
Line two 6″x6″/15x15cm square molds with parchment paper (I only have these 2 very tiny square molds. Feel absolutely free to use 1 big mold as it was supposed to be). Divide the dough mixture evenly into the molds and press it down with your fingers until it’s firmly distributed. Bake in the oven for 18~20 min until the edges are slightly browned.
Meanwhile, make the pear custard. Peel and core 1~2 pears depending on the size to have enough for 1 cup of pureed pear. Puree the pear first in the blender. It may be slightly difficult to do so without enough liquid so you might have to smash the pears down with a wooden spoon a few times. Once the pear is pureed, measure exactly 1 cup to leave in the blender then add the eggs, honey, sugar, lemon juice, vanilla seeds and flour. Blend until just evenly combined. Tap the blender on the counter a few times to help the air-bubbles float to the top, then use a spoon to pop as much bubbles as you can.
Once the crust is ready, take them out of the oven and turn the heat down to 325ºF/170ºC. Pour the pear custard onto the hot crust and return it to the oven to bake until the center of the custard is set and the edges are slightly browned, 25~30 min.
Leave them to cool slightly on the counter, then lift the parchment paper to remove them from the molds (OR even better if you have molds with removable-bottom). Let it chill completely in the fridge before cutting.
Cut them into small squares or rectangles and dust with powder sugar on top. They will keep nicely in the fridge for 1 week, perfect for a get-away vacation wouldn’t you agree?…