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Poached Quince with Mascarpone, Caramel and Gingersnaps

Thick, rich, mascarpone tastes of fresh cream with a subtle butteriness. It pairs perfectly with apple-and-pear-like quince, whose delicate floral aroma is brought out by gentle poaching in spiced Riesling wine. A drizzle of caramel lends a bittersweet flavor and crushed gingersnaps add texture to this simple, but very elegant, dessert.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle (750ml) Riesling wine
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 1/2 tsp. peppercorns
  • 3 quinces, peeled and halved
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 lb. mascarpone cheese
  • 10 to 15 gingersnap cookies, each 2 inches wide

Directions:

Pour the Riesling into a deep nonreactive saucepan. Add 1 cup of the sugar, the cinnamon sticks, star anise and peppercorns and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.

Add the quince halves to the simmering wine mixture, return to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and cook until a paring knife easily slips into the quinces, about 1 hour (the cores will remain slightly hard). Let the quinces cool in the poaching liquid.

In a heavy saucepan, combine the remaining 1 cup sugar and 3 Tbs. water. Cover, set over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer, checking the sugar often. Once the sugar starts to melt, uncover and swirl the pan occasionally until the sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Continue to simmer, uncovered, until the sugar turns into a deep amber-brown caramel, 3 to 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat, carefully add the cream (the caramel will hiss and bubble vigorously) and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the butter, vanilla and salt. Let cool slightly.

In a bowl, whisk the mascarpone to soften, then whisk in 3 Tbs. of the cooled poaching liquid. Using a rolling pin, crush the gingersnaps into small pieces (you should have about 1/2 cup). Using a melon baller, core the poached quince halves and place each half on a serving plate or in a bowl. Top the quince halves with the mascarpone mixture, drizzle with the caramel, sprinkle with the crushed gingersnaps and serve immediately. Serves 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma New Flavors for Desserts, by Raquel Pelzel (Oxmoor House, 2008).