Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sundays with Sparky - Cocoa Spice Pear Chips

We are fortunate to live in a diverse town; Sparky attends school with a rainbow of children from all walks of life, beliefs, abilities, cultures and languages.  This rich mélange of humanity sometimes challenges us when it comes to simple things - in this case, classroom snacks.

004This year, we don't need to worry about food allergies (a subject I don't feel qualified to address in a blog post, anyway.)  However, two of Sparky's classmates are vegan...not a challenge on a regular snack day: (at least not for a Wellness Committee member working to bring better food to the school) as I simply offer whole fruits or vegetables.

Party foods, on the other hand, are a bit of a challenge.  In my opinion, food for sharing should be accessible - and vegan foods have the additional advantage of being friendly to many food traditions (for instance, vegan foods are usually acceptable to vegetarians, Hindus and Muslims and may also be kosher.)  I wanted to bring a winter-friendly baked treat that everyone could eat, but I didn't want to sacrifice flavor for accessibility.  I've found in these situations it's best not to use analog products (e.g. egg substitutes, dairy-free margarine) but to think entirely outside the box.

When I spied this recipe on Food52 last week, I knew I had found what I needed - and, as an added bonus, Sparky would get to work with a dangerously sharp kitchen tool just before bedtime!  I pulled out the mandoline, and the cut-resistant gloves, and took a deep breath.

The great news is that this is a fairly simple recipe, and the only pertinent change  I made to the linked recipe was to use vegan sugar (refined white sugar isn't vegan, and most brown sugars contain refined white sugar - make sure to use sugar labeled "raw" or "natural."  You might also be able to use pure maple syrup, but I haven't tested it.)  We used my favorite pears, bosc - which can be hard as rocks or soft as melting butter and are delicious either way (I found the sweeter, softer pears to work best in this recipe but be careful when slicing them.)

002I started by teaching Sparky to use the mandoline with the hand guard; you poke the grippers into the pear and then slide both gently over the blade (which I'd set to 1/8 of an inch)  If the pear resists you, you can twist  the guard slightly as you slide over the blade.  In this manner, we quickly had three pears cut into neat windowpane-thin slices.

007Sparky then used a coffee spoon to take out the heart of each pear (I later discovered it was easier to scoop the core out in its entirety as soon as it was revealed by the slicer.) and laid it on a parchment-covered baking sheet.

008When the sheet was covered in pears, we sprinkled them with a mixture of raw sugar, cocoa, ginger and cinnamon, and popped them into a 275 degree oven for half an hour, after which they were flipped over and baked for another half-hour or until crispy (the softer pears needed a bit more time, but came out more like candy.)  I can't tell you how incredible my kitchen smelled!

The chips turned out to be both delicious and beautiful*   Of course, many kids in the classroom party didn't try them, despite the delectable smell - but Sparky, the two vegan kids, and the adults nearly finished all five pears' worth.  They also have the advantage of being light but still really flavorful; they will work well with the assortment of heavy holiday foods, and give the dieters in your family something to feel good about eating.

* Those of you who know me well also know that I'm mentally working on a strategy to get a tiny edible partridge to sit in the little hole, but that's for another Sunday.


1 comment:

leaf (the indolent cook) said...

These sound great! I can just imagine how fragrant and delicious they would be.

Post a Comment