The last couple of days have been so warm and sunny, I don’t even care if they announce snow for next week. Spring is in the air and nothing will change it. The spring evoking exquisite, bright green matcha latte posted by Kelly (from Inspired Edibles) has inspired me to begin the season of refreshing, light desserts. I found some dying pears at the bottom of my fridge and instead of a cake or tart, I decided to incorporate them into the easiest and quickest light dessert I know.
Some of you might remember my discovery of a wobbly, creamy dessert based on two milks (coconut and cow milk) and agar. This discovery has changed into a real addiction and I must have already prepared dozens of batches. The basic mixture is extremely versatile, sets quickly (agar sets at room temperature) and, since I put a tiny amount of sugar or sometimes even only sweetener, it’s one of the lightest desserts I know. I have already experimented many different versions, such as chocolate, coffee or matcha (see below). Even though agar is a jelling agent, I use it in scarce amounts and obtain a slightly wobbly, “falling off the spoon” consistency, rather than a well-set jelly, hence the name “cream”.
My first plan was to cut up the pears and simply pour the cream over them (just like I did with canned peaches here). It seemed however a bit boring (especially visually), so I decided to grate some lime zest on top for decoration and… it was a revelation! As silly as it may sound, it was the first time I have combined pear with lime zest and I found it extraordinary. The mellow, “flat” sweetness of the pear and coconut suddenly becomes exciting with the tangy, refreshing and slightly bitter zest. I am very tempted to explore further this surprising combination, at least until summer fruits appear.
As a reminder, agar (“kanten” in Japanese) is a gelatinous substance obtained from certain seaweed varieties, usually sold powdered or (in Asian countries) in long sticks. Look for it in Asian grocery shops or in organic (health-food) shops or… in normal supermarkets (they sell it in my Swiss supermarkets). Even though some people say agar-agar is a gelatin equivalent, I cannot agree with it. The way it sets food is different from the gelatin I have been using for years and, if you buy it powdered, only a tiny amount is required. When used in scarce amounts, agar yields a creamy, wobbly, delicate result, but when a big amount is used, it sets the food stronger than gelatin, so it’s a bit tricky when used for the first time.
If you feel like experimenting with agar, here are some ideas you might like:
TIPS: Look closely at your agar package instructions. On mine 1/2 teaspoon is said to set 500 ml/2 cups liquid to a jelly. I use only 1/3 teaspoon and obtain a wobbly, “falling off the spoon” consistency. If you prefer a well-set jelly, use the amount advised on the package.
Do not wait until the cream becomes cold before pouring it into the bowls because agar sets at room temperature and once disturbed, it will not reset properly!
Preparation: 15 minutes + 2-3 hours in the fridge
Ingredients (serves 4 – 5):
250 ml coconut milk
250 ml cow milk
4 flat tablespoons sugar (or less, if, like me you prefer moderately sweet desserts; I have put only 2 tablespoons)
1/3 flat teaspoon agar agar in powder
3 medium pears
2 – 3 limes
Dissolve the sugar and agar-agar in the mixture of the two milks. Bring to boil and, constantly stirring, let it simmer for about a minute.
Prepare four individual bowls or low glasses.
Peel the pears and cut them up into cubes.
Distribute them equally into the bowls. (Do not wait until the cream becomes cold because agar sets at room temperature and once disturbed, it will not reset properly).
Pour the milks’ mixture into the bowls and refrigerate for at least two hours.
Serve very cold decorated with grated lime zest (you can also incorporate it into the dessert, before it sets, but it won’t have the same freshness).