Legendary Dishes | Birnenweggen (pear wedges)

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SWITZERLAND

These pears wedges are one of the great culinary secrets of the Swiss Alps.

Traditionally birnenweggen was an elaborate affair full of fruits and nuts, pears – dried and fresh – prominent, naturally given its name. Dried fruit – figs, raisins and sultanas – gave it a depth of flavour, candied peel and aromatic spices added to the flavour but it was the addition of the red cherry liquor known as kirschwasser that elevated that flavour to the culinary heavens.

This recipe is based on the versions from the early part of the 20th century, when figs and plums or prunes were also essential ingredients in the filling and the spices included cinnamom, cloves and nutmeg.

The idea is to produce a sweet, aromatic confection with a depth of flavour that is divine.

Any pastry will work, the lighter the better.

Dough

  • 250 g white wheat baking flour
  • 150 ml water
  • 125 g butter, softened
  • 125 g lard / margarine, softened
  • 10 g salt

Filling

  • 300 g soft pears, cored, chopped
  • 200 g hard pears, cored, cubed
  • 150 g sweet apples, peeled, cored, cubed
  • 150 g dried pears, chopped
  • 100 ml kirschwasser / fruit brandy
  • 100 ml lemon juice / apple juice
  • 100 ml mineral water
  • 100 g walnuts, crushed small
  • 50 g almonds / hazelnuts, ground
  • 50 g dried figs, chopped
  • 50 g raisins / sultanas
  • 45 g brown sugar
  • 25 g candied peel
  • 5 g cinnamon
  • 3 g cloves
  • Nutmeg, very large pinch

Finish

  • 60 g egg yolks, beaten

Soak dried pears, figs, peel and raisins or sultanas in kirschwasser, and choice of juice overnight or at least 12 hours. Boil hard and soft pears, and sweet apples in mineral water. Add sugar when all the liquid has evaporated, cook for a further 10 minutes, leave to cool. Add almonds and walnuts to the apple-pear mixture, then fold in the soaked fruit mixture and spices.

Combine flour, salt and water into a loose dough, leave for 30 minutes, then roll out into a 25 cm square. Incorporate lard into the butter, place in the centre of the dough. Bring the edges of the dough together over the butter-lard, refrigerate for 10 minutes. Flour the work surface, roll dough into a large rectangle, roughly 60 cm by 20 cm. Fold into three, turn and roll out again into large rectangle. Fold into three, refrigerate for 15 minutes. Repeat this turn-roll-fold- refrigerate procedure four or five times until the dough is smooth and no longer sticky. Refrigerate until needed.

Divide the dough into 220 g pieces, roll into into 40 cm x 20 cm rectangles no more than 5 mm thick. Place filling toward the edge of the long side, fold over and seal, using milk to moisten the edges. Preheat oven to 200°C. Pierce surface with a fork, smear with egg yolk. Bake at 180°C for 60 minutes. Leave to cool. Cut each wedge into two or three pieces, wrap in cling-film.