Friday, September 27, 2013

Pear Chips - A Grain-Free Alternative to Crackers

I've been mostly grain-free for several years now. Unlike many people, I don't typically look for ways to recreate the things I can't eat anymore. There aren't a lot of grain-free alternatives for the basics like crackers, breads and pizza. Most of the time I don't really care. There are a plethora of wonderful things to eat without turning to starchy staples.

One of my favorite things to eat is cheese. (Thank God I don't have a sensitivity to dairy too. For a while there Vince was having some issues with dairy and I thought, "holy crap, aren't we the fun couple to invite to dinner." Thankfully that passed.) Anyway, most of the time I just eat cheese on its own or with some antipasti but that's not so easy do with soft cheeses like Brie, Cambazola and goat cheese. You, more or less, need a delivery system of sorts with them. That's the time when I miss being able to grab a cracker or piece of bread.

Recently I saw a new product called Simple and Crisp. It's a line of dehydrated fruit crisps that can be used for anything for crackers to drink garnishes. They feature pear, apple, orange and blood orange crisps. I like them very much but they are a little pricey - about $8 a box for around 20 crisps. Vince has been off work for over a year now so I don't feel like I can be all willy-nilly with my food budget these days. So, I thought I'd just make my own. It's not difficult and really not all that time consuming because you just put them in a low oven and forget about them for a few hours.

Here's what you need:
3 to 4 firm, ripe pears
6 ounces of fresh squeezed lemon juice
4 cups of water

First wash the pears and gently wipe them dry. In a medium-sized mixing bowl combine the lemon juice and water, and set aside.

Preheat your oven to 250F. Incidentally, I prefer to use an oven over a dehydrator because the oven creates crispier chips as opposed to fruit leather-like chips.

Now it's time to slice. I highly recommend using a mandoline for slicing the pears. It's pretty hard to maintain the steady hand and eagle eye it take to make consistent slices. I set my mandoline on the second thinnest slice setting, which gives me roughly 1/8-inch thick slices. That's perfect for a crispy chip with enough stability to hold a slathering of creamy cheese.

Submerge the slices of pear in the lemon water. You only need to leave them in the water a minute or two. If you leave them in too long they will absorb too much water and it will be harder to crisp them up.

Then, drain the slices and pat them dry on clean kitchen towel or sheets of paper towel.

Next, line baking sheets with pieces of parchment. This will make clean up super easy. Arrange the pear slices on the parchment-lined baking sheet in a single layer.

Place the baking sheets in the oven. Set a timer for 2 hours.  At the end of the 2 hours, check the slices.  They should be dry and slightly crispy.  If not, put them back in the oven for another 15 to 30 minutes. Don't over brown them.

Finally, remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow the pear chips to cool for 15 to 30 minutes.  They will crisp completely during this time.

It's up to you what you do next. Vince and I love pear chips with a smear of Camembert or creamy Gorgonzola. Try topping them with a sprinkling of toasted, chopped hazelnuts or walnuts.  They are also great with a little mascarpone drizzled with chocolate sauce.

After pear season, try the same trick with apples!

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