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Baking for Two

by Flo Braker

It seems there are more couples in the kitchen these days than in the past. And just like the classic melody, Tea for Two, why not add to your repertoire some "Baking for Two" recipes?

My approach to two-serving baking is to keep it simple and fresh, delicious and glamorous. One easy dessert that makes a handsome presentation without being too time-consuming to prepare is pears poached in a spiced Marsala syrup. The poaching liquid not only flavors the fruit with a delicate zing, but it also gives the pears a rich amber color similar to a garnet. Accompany each pear with a few Tuiles, delicate cookies that look like curved almond wafers.

The Rum-Raisin Souffle Omelet, a sweet, spongy relative of the popular savory egg dish, combines both whipped yolks and whipped whites with rum-soaked raisins in just a few easy steps. You begin as though you were making a spongecake because you fold whipped egg yolks into a whipped egg white mixture. But since a spongecake calls for flour to give it its characteristic cakey texture, that is where the similarity ends. A souffle omelet is just as its name implies -- a light, spongy egg mixture that rises dramatically during baking, similar to a souffle. Just like a souffle, once baked, the souffle omelet won't wait and must be served without delay.

Pears Poached in Spiced Marsala Wine
For this dessert, I prefer the Bosc variety of pear since they hold their shape when poached. Dry Marsala wine complements the pears' subtle flavor beautifully.

2 firm-ripe pears, preferably Bosc, about 8 ounces each
2 cups dry Marsala or dry red wine
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 whole clove
1 whole black peppercorn
1 2-inch length cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 small strip lemon zest
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Using a vegetable peeler, carefully remove the skin from each pear, leaving the stem intact. Cut a thin slice from the bottom of each pear so the pear will stand level. Using a melon ball cutter, core out the center of each pear from the bottom. In a 1 1/2-quart saucepan, add the Marsala, water, sugar and remaining ingredients except heavy cream, and bring mixture just to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat and add the pears. Place a couple of paper towels on top to submerge pears entirely in the liquid to keep them from discoloring. Cook pears at a slow simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes, turning the pears occasionally in the syrup so that they cook evenly. The pears should just be tender when pierced with a skewer but still have some resistance. Cooking time varies with size and ripeness of pears.

Remove saucepan from heat, gently lift pears from the poaching liquid to stand upright in a bowl; set aside. Remove lemon zest strip, clove and peppercorn from liquid. Return saucepan to medium-high heat and cook down poaching liquid by half.

Serve pears warm or at room temperature. To serve, spoon some of the syrup into a bowl, stemmed dish or glass, then set a pear on top. Spoon 1 tablespoon heavy cream over each pear. Serve with tuiles cookies (recipe follows).

Makes 4 dozen, 1 1/2-inch disks
What I like best about these crispy thin cookies is that their delicate texture and subtle nutty flavor don't overpower but complement the poached pears.

1/3 cup (about 3 large) egg whites
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup unsifted all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and lukewarm
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup (2 ounces) sliced almonds, preferably blanched

Adjust rack to lower third of oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Unwrap an end of a chilled stick of unsalted butter and rub it over two large cool non-stick baking sheets to apply a very thin film of fat.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the whites with the sugar just until foamy, about 30 seconds. Whisk in the flour, then the butter and vanilla until well blended.

Drop teaspoonsful of batter 1-1/2-inches apart on the baking sheet. Rap the baking sheet on the work surface to spread the batter slightly. Sprinkle a few sliced almonds on each disk.

Bake, one sheet at a time, 8 minutes or until just the edges are golden with ivory-colored centers. Place baking sheet on a wire rack to cool for only 15 seconds. With a metal spatula, lift the cookies one at a time, and lay over a rolling pin to curve the cookie while it is still pliable. Cookies crisp as they cool.

Repeat the baking and shaping process with the remaining batter. Stack in an airtight metal container at room temperature up to 1 week. Keep tuiles in container until serving since they are very susceptible to any moisture in the air.

Rum-Raisin Souffle Omelet

2 teaspoons dark rum
1/4 cup golden raisins
3 eggs, separated
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon each lemon and orange zest
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 small orange, separated into sections

Adjust rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter an ovenproof platter, a 5 to 6 cup oval au gratin dish or an 8-inch round ceramic quiche pan. In a small bowl, pour rum over raisins; set aside for 10 minutes.

In a small bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, whip the egg yolks with the brown sugar until the mixture is pale yellow and thick. Add vanilla, lemon and orange zests to the yolks during the last seconds of whipping. In a medium bowl, whip egg whites with cream of tartar and salt until soft peaks form. Add sugar, a tablespoon at a time and continue to whip until they form shiny, stiff, not dry peaks. Fold the yolk mixture into the whites. Spread half the mixture in the buttered container. Spoon rum-soaked raisins over top. Spread the remainder of the mixture on top and smooth it evenly. Sprinkle powdered sugar over surface. Bake until golden for about 12 minutes. Serve with fresh orange sections.

Flo Braker has been teaching baking techniques and her sweet miniatures across the country for twenty years and is the author of several cookbooks.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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