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Chez Panisse Desserts: Fruit Compote in Darjeeling Tea and Sauternes

My first attempt from Chez Panisse Desserts . I'm not quite sure about the reasoning behind some of the instructions, but the end result is a tasty combination of dried fruits and syrup that would taste great with cookies or pound cake.

The recipe calls for 6 different kinds of dried fruit, and Lindsey Shere instructs the cook to poach each one separately, even though some of them need to cook for the same amount of time. I'm not quite certain what the reason is for cooking them separately, since there's plenty of syrup to cover more than one kind of fruit at a time. To simplify the instructions, I've combined the fruits that can be cooked together.

The recipe calls for Sauternes, a sweet French dessert wine. Don't use the inexpensive sauterne which you can find on the shelf at your supermarket for as little as $5 a bottle. The flavor of the wine is very important for the finished dessert, and the cheap stuff just won't cut it. You can easily substitute another sweet wine, if real Sauternes is difficult to find or too expensive. Black Muscat or eiswein would both make excellent subsitutes.

Similarly, while Darjeeling is the specified tea, I think any black tea would work in this recipe. Shere's recipe calls for 3/4 tsp of tea leaves. I opened up a Twining's tea bag and measured the amount of tea inside; it was a scant 1 tsp. Feel free to use a tea bag, rather than loose-leaf tea, if you wish.

Try to use unsulfured fruit, if you can find it. Health food stores often sell unsulfured dried pears and apricots. If you can't find them, make sure to blanch the sulfured fruit before poaching it in the syrup. It's just the pears and apricots which need to be blanched; the other fruit will not, in all likelihood, be sulfured.

The recipe calls for Muscat raisins, a specialty variety which can be difficult to find. Substitute regular black raisins if Muscats are unavailable.

Shere doesn't suggest any accompaniments for the compote. I think it's quite tasty, but needs to be served with something to cut through the sweetness. A slice of toasted pound cake or some almond biscotti would make excellent companions.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: about 30 minutes
Yield: 4 to 6 servings

3/4 tsp Darjeeling tea leaves (or 1 Darjeeling tea bag)
3 cups water
1/2 cup Sauternes, or other sweet dessert wine
1/2 cup sugar
3 oz. dried pears
1/3 cup (1 1/2 oz.) golden raisins
1/3 cup (1 1/2 oz.) Muscat raisins (or regular black raisins, if unavailable)
2 Tbsp dried currants
3 oz. dried apricots
3 oz. dried pitted prunes
Sauternes or other dessert wine for serving, optional

If the pears and/or apricots are sulfured, blanch them in a medium pot of boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes, then drain.

Bring the 3 cups of water to a boil. Steep the tea in it for 3 minutes. Strain with a fine strainer if using loose leaves, or remove the tea bag. Bring the tea, Sauternes or other wine, and sugar to a simmer in a medium nonreactive saucepan. Add the pears and simmer in the syrup for 10 to 15 minutes, until tender. Remove them with a slotted spoon. Poach the golden raisins, Muscat or black raisins, and currants for about 4 minutes, or until they have puffed up slightly. Remove with a slotted spoon. Poach the apricots for about 4 minutes, watching carefully since they will be very soft and could lose their shape if cooked too long. Remove with a slotted spoon, then add the prunes. Simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, or until tender. Remove with a slotted spoon, then reduce the syrup to 1 1/2 to 1 1/4 cups, about 5 minutes over high heat. Pour the syrup over the fruit, cover, and refrigerate until completely cold, at least 4 hours and up to 2 days.

Serve with pound cake or cookies, spooning some of the syrup over the fruit. Add a spoonful of the dessert wine over each serving, if desired.



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