Caramelized Pineapple

Caramelized Pineapple

One fruit that’s always in season is pineapple, and the spiky beauties really help to brighten up winter, especially when you’ve had your fill of apples and pears. I like eating fresh pineapple after a meal because not only is it refreshing, but it has a pleasant acidity that tends to make me feel good about eating it. Although not local (we wish! because that would mean a tropical beach nearby…), pineapples are always available at the markets in Paris. You can get regular pineapples, sometimes called “Red Spanish” or “Cayenne” pineapples in the world of pineapples (although I think that second variety might give spice-averse locals pause), and there are also slender, smaller Victoria pineapples, that are much sweeter, although yield less edible flesh. (In the United States, there are Tahitian pineapples, which have similar characteristics.

I was reading Baking Chez Moi, Dorie Greenspan’s comprehensive, and deliciously readable book, about French home baking, and she notes that Parisians don’t bake the way Americans do. Americans bake to relax or as a hobby – in France, it’s something you do because, well…you need a dessert. They don’t make a big fuss about it or are all that concerned about appearances. I think people know they can’t compete with the professional pastry shop on the corner, so they’re just content to make what they feel will be fine for their guests. And in my experience, French people are always appreciative of homemade desserts, since so many people do go to the corner pâtisserie.

Bonne maman orange marmalade

No one expects to go to a dinner party and find a spectacular cake for dessert, unless it was picked up at the local pastry shop. And there’s certainly no shame in that. People often ask me about how Parisians make macarons or baguettes or croissants, and I answer that no one makes those in Paris since you can buy them, good-quality ones, almost anywhere. Like charcuterie, they leave it up to the experts. French home bakers also tend to rely on reliable, tried-and-true desserts, always having a few in their repertoire, often passed down from their mothers – or in the case of chocolate mousse, the most famous recipe in France is on the back of the Nestlé chocolate baking bar package, sold in le supermarché.

Caramelized PineappleCaramelized Pineapple
Caramelized PineappleCaramelized Pineapple

I was once on a panel and suggested beforehand that we take questions from people in the audience. “Oh, no. No one will raise their hand,” I was told by a French woman sitting next to me, “It reminds them of grade school when if they were called on and got the answer wrong, they’re be reprimanded in front of everybody else.”

Since no one wants to be reprimanded for a dud dessert (and I’m beginning to think that the best way to get reprimanded is to say, or put something, in a social media stream…), Dorie’s book of well-tested recipes presents a range of desserts and sweets that people do make at home; think casual cakes, cookies, and other sweets, many that can be made in compact Parisian kitchens.

This is one of those desserts where you really don’t need to do anything, and is nice because it can be made in advance. Harried Parisians are habitually late for dinner, so with this caramelized pineapple, it can be made in advance and you don’t have to worry about something temperamental roasting away in the oven while you cool your heels, waiting for them to arrive. Believe me, I’ve been there. We recently invited some friends for dinner and they arrived an astonishing 2 1/2 hours late.

Caramelized Pineapple

Dorie got the recipe from someone who works in her hair salon in Paris. In her book, she wrote about trying to get quantities out of him – he used finger measurements “that wavered” she says, to denote how much juice to use. And how he didn’t have a clue as to how much jelly was in his recipe. He just winged it. Perhaps, he said, it was a jarful?

So I chuckle when people ask me “What do you mean by a handful?” or “How much is a pinch?” Because French people rarely slavishly follow recipes. They just cook au pif, or “by the nose.” (Or in this case, by the jar.) And this recipe is a good example of that philosophy. You can vary the type of jam or the liquor – although I found it a touch sweet, so recommend using a tart jam, and I added a squeeze of fresh lime juice to balance out the flavors.

Caramelized Pineapple recipe

When choosing a pineapple, disregard the advice about if you can easily pluck a leaf from the center of the top, that will determine ripeness. A fresh pineapple will be ripe when it’s not too green on the outside; you want to find one that’s mostly yellow. Pineapples don’t ripen much once picked, so use your nose – au pif – to take a sniff. If it smells sweet, with the heady fragrance of the tropics, you’ve got a good one in your hands.

Spiced Caramelized Pineapple
Four to six servings

Adapted from Baking Chez Moi: Recipes from My Paris Home to Yours Anywhere, by Dorie Greenspan

You could serve the pineapple quarters whole, although I diced the pineapple up and served the caramelized tidbits and some of the thick, caramelized sauce, with toasted coconut ice cream. (From The Perfect Scoop.) Vanilla ice cream would work as well. Leftovers got chopped up and added to a fruit salad. Note that even with the lime juice, it’s somewhat sweet. So do try to pair it with something that will offset that. You can always add a bit more lime juice when the pineapple is done cooking, to balance it out.

Dorie recommends apple jelly, apricot jam, or orange marmalade. I would go for the most tart of the bunch – apricot or bitter orange. But the fellow who gave her the recipe suggested that hot pepper jelly would work, which I’m going to try next time. In any event, since the liquid is going to be heavily reduced, it’s not really necessary to use your fancy, homemade jam. I used store-bought, and it worked fine. For those avoiding alcohol, simply use 1/2 cup (125ml) more orange juice with an additional generous squeeze of lime.

  • 1 ripe pineapple, peeled, quartered, and cored
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) fresh orange juice
  • juice of one lime
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) liquor; rum, Cognac, brandy, whiskey, or bourbon
  • 1 cup (250g, 8 ounces) apricot jam or bitter orange marmalade
  • optional: 1 teaspoon powdered vanilla bean, or 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 6 allspice berries, slightly crushed (or another spice, such as a couple of cinnamon sticks, crushed cardamom seeds, or a few star anise)

1. Preheat the oven to 300ºF (150ºC).

2. Place the pineapple in a baking dish that’s not much large than they are, but with room for basting and turning the pineapple as it cooks.

3. In a bowl, mix together the orange juice, lime juice, liquor, jam, vanilla (if using), and allspice (or whatever spices you are using.)

4. Pour the mixture over the pineapple and roast in the oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, turning the pineapple quarters every 20 minutes, basting them with the juices, until the fruit is caramelized on the outside. Depending on the ripeness and juiciness of the pineapple, the cooking time may vary. So be sure to check it, and follow your senses when it’s done – au pif.

Serving: Serve the pineapple warm or at room temperature. It can be served with vanilla ice cream or another favorite flavor, mixed into a fruit salad, or in other creative ways.

Storage: The caramelized pineapple can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. It can be rewarmed before serving in the oven, covered to preserve the juiciness, if desired.


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34 comments

  • December 19, 2014 12:29pm

    How strange, this is the first time I’ve seen this recipe online with the inclusion of lime juice. I made it about a week ago, and while I liked it, I think I would prefer it with peaches or another fruit. The spiced syrup it creates is excellent. But the dish would change entirely with the addition of lime juice, so I might have to try it again…

  • Paula
    December 19, 2014 3:22pm

    This would be perfect with my Christmas ham. Thanks!

  • Claire
    December 19, 2014 3:23pm

    Next to the Ruby Red grapefruits we get in Texas this time of year, pineapple is my favorite fruit to eat. This recipe is exactly what I’ve been craving for a holiday dessert. Is there a practical reason for the way you scored the pineapple or is it just for looks?

  • December 19, 2014 4:45pm

    This looks wonderful David! Caramelised fruit is just the best!

  • Todd
    December 19, 2014 6:19pm

    That’s the first time I’ve ever seen a pineapple cut in that pattern. Could you provide more info on why you cut that way and how to do it?looks great!

  • Jean
    December 19, 2014 6:24pm

    Re: scoring the pineapple – He was cutting out the eyes of the pineapple, as opposed to dealing with each one individually.

    Here in south Florida, you can take the pineapple top & plant it in the ground, and within a few years it will yield another pineapple, which you can enjoy (as long as you harvest it before the critters carry it away.)

  • December 19, 2014 6:34pm
    David Lebovitz

    Todd, Jean and Claire: Yes, it’s to remove the “eyes.” Some people use the tip of a vegetable peeler to remove each one but this is a little faster, and the way people usually do it in tropical countries, where they prepare a lot of pineapple. (At least from what I’ve seen.) Some people often cut deeply into the pineapple, to remove the eyes, when peeling it. But I think that discards a bit too much of the flesh.

    • Todd
      December 19, 2014 7:09pm

      David and Jean. Thanks for the quick responses. I’ll try that this weekend. I’m always amazed at how much I waste.

      Love your blog David!

  • December 19, 2014 6:54pm

    Oh David, that’s perfection!
    My mouth is watering, with vanilla ice cream so delicious.
    Thanks for share!

  • December 19, 2014 7:35pm

    Caramelized pineapple is almost as good as an elaborate cake or dessert for me. I like mine with condensed milk drizzled on top, which we saw a lot of in Thailand when you got roti!

  • December 19, 2014 7:53pm

    Honey-Bunches, that score job did a number on me. I have always used the end of the potato peeler, just as my mama taught. But Holy-Guacamole, this here is a work of art!

    Having spent my early years on the beaches of Hawaii, our family ate pineapple on a daily basis. I can confirm that the juice of a freshly cut pineapple serves as a sanitizer and an odorizer for a wooden cutting board. Simply slice your pineapple atop a ‘clean’ board, preferably close to the sink area, as you slice and dice, move cut chunks aside in to your serving dish. Once the fruit is cut and the debris cast, rub the juice around your board for about a minute or less. Rinse and wipe your board dry.

    (I am so envious of that score job I feel a sanitize, odorized board is a must. That board is about to become the freshest thing in this household! How about you and Romain come over for spiced rum and show me, in person, how to do this just right?)

    P.S. Another tip from my mom: before you conclude you have the perfect pineapple, turn it upside down. Where the fruit was plucked you should note a clean indention. Fuzzy grey or green, on the tail end, is mold growth. Grab another until you find a clean butt hole. So sorry, it sounds gross, but I want everyone well so they can come join us for our spiced rums, and carving lessons.

  • December 19, 2014 8:01pm

    Oh Heavens, forgive me for my sin. Thank you for the lovely recipe. A must do dish for Christmas morning breakfast.

  • Andrea Rademan
    December 19, 2014 9:11pm

    Doubt this is still true but years ago you could buy baked goods at Fauchon in Paris and for a small upcharge, you could order them with minor imperfections in the appearance so you could pass them off as homemade.

  • December 19, 2014 11:07pm

    Beautiful, beautiful. Bravo, David. I want to try this soon.

  • NW Dan
    December 20, 2014 12:04am

    Love the idea of using this on ham. I’m cooking a big one from our local pig farmer on Xmas. I think Ill try cutting it with horseradish.
    Thank for a great blog David!

  • Mary V.
    December 20, 2014 12:18am

    My husband and I both love your books, newsletters, and emails.
    We grow a Piment d”Espelette type pepper and I make a wonderful jelly from
    them. How would this work with the pineapple? Any thoughts would be appreciated.

  • Marketmaster
    December 20, 2014 2:09am

    Thanks so much, David, for showing the pineapple cut the way you did. I first saw this in the Philippines, and asked immediately how it was done. Whenever I use pineapple in my cooking classes I cut it as you show and everyone thinks it is genius–easy and beautiful.

    Caramelized pineapple goes into a class soon (with attribution)! Thanks to both you and Dorie for the recipe.

  • Linda H
    December 20, 2014 3:54am

    I love this pineapple idea, and I can completely sympathize with you about the late, late dinner guests. How can you hold dinner for 2 1/2 hours? My worst experience was a dinner at which half the guests (American) were on time and the other half (British) were over an hour and a half late. The Americans were starved by the time we sat down, the English were oblivious to the problem and the food was pretty tired.

  • Fred
    December 20, 2014 4:47am

    Oh sure, now where are all the “eat local” people?! (Sounds yummy even if you are not in the tropics!)

  • Querino de-Freitas
    December 20, 2014 11:35am

    Pineapple………lovely exotic fruit,,the taste is out of this world……..I find Pineapple should be eaten just as it is ….on a plate,,slightly chilled….and voila ……sweet delight…Querino

  • December 20, 2014 12:01pm

    I always cut my pineapples that way since I saw it in the Far East. But I don’t throw the cut bits away until I’ve put them through a juicer and then have a piña colada to celebrate.

  • Rochelle
    December 20, 2014 9:40pm

    Or if you are grilling over charcoal, macerate those slices of pineapple and then slap them onto your hot grill. Baste them as they grill until browned on both sides and when you serve them pour on a little more of the sauce. Or just grill the plain pineapple without anything else – still delicious hot off the BBQ !

  • December 21, 2014 12:50am

    Oh David, what a great way to prepare this fruit which is everywhere here and always the same — sliced or diced or, of course blended into a piña colada. Not feeling sorry for myself for living in the tropics, just happy to have a different way to enjoy the fruit. Muchas gracias!

  • JudyMac
    December 21, 2014 2:20am

    For those of you looking for a good orange marmalade in the US, I would like to recommend a Smucker’s item called their “Orchard’s Finest” and the jar reads a “Pacific Grove Orange Marmalade Medly.” Its ingredients include a citrus blend of navel orange juice, orange peel, blood orange juice, and mandarin orange juice. It might not be as tart as David suggests for this recipe, but it is by far the best orange marmalade I’ve ever eaten. It runs about $3.79 for a 12 oz. jar. Worth every penny in my opinion. Also check out the other flavors in the Orchard’s Finest group. No, I don’t work for Smucker’s. :-)

  • Sandy T
    December 21, 2014 7:42am

    Huh. This reminds me of a fancier version of one of my favorite childhood desserts (usually eaten in summer): fresh pineapple spears, goat’s milk cajeta, and vanilla ice cream. It’s funny; I can’t stand the hard-core, funky boxed Mexican cajeta anymore, but give me fresh pineapple, homemade caramel and ice cream and I’m done for.

    Thanks for reminding me, and thanks for this recipe – it sounds wonderful.

  • December 21, 2014 5:51pm

    This looks so good and I love the idea of toasted coconut ice cream to go with it! I like your descriptions of life in Paris too.

  • Deborah
    December 26, 2014 11:38pm

    Aloha, David and hope your holidays were good as festive as you seem to be. I love your writing and always look forward to it. I was surprised that you have fresh pineapple available year round, that’s great. I love it too,especially for the acid. I’m going to try this and substitute the alcohol with pomegranate juice, that should ease up the sweetness as well. I bought that nifty ice cream maker that you recommended so I may do that coconut ice cream with it. Oh boy—here we go!
    Deborah

  • Pegeen
    December 28, 2014 4:30am

    2-1/2 hours late? There is no excuse for that, French or not, unless you’re the President of your country. Hopefully they phoned you.

  • Karen T.
    December 29, 2014 12:47am

    Hi David – I have a pineapple question for you. I just bought a copy of A La Mere de Famille and was shortly thereafter presented with two mini pineapples. Of COURSE I had to try out the gorgeous whole candied pineapple recipe on page 178. They are now happily bathing in their syrup, but….what am I supposed to do with them, other than eat plain?!?! I’ve spent the last hour searching on the internet for options but so far it’s been limited to fruitcake (not a fan, sorry).

    • December 29, 2014 11:31am
      David Lebovitz

      I don’t have the book so am unfamiliar with the recipe. So it’s best to contact the authors of it for serving and usage suggestions. Thanks!

  • December 29, 2014 10:43pm

    What a lovely idea! Such a low-key dessert for the holidays.

  • RK VanOrsdal
    January 2, 2015 2:52am

    Made this for Thanksgiving. There were no left overs and there were only four people at the table. Used rum as my liquor. Made it the night before and the sauce was thinner than expected, so put it in a sauce pan and boiled it down a bit.

  • January 8, 2015 8:02am

    My mother served this at Christmas and it was spectacular…and lucky me, she sent me home with the leftovers.

    I had some of the syrup left over (she’d used rum and orange marmalade) and it made a wonderful cocktail: 1 oz. aged rum (Dos Maderas PX), 1 oz. Cruzan Blackstrap rum, 3/4 oz. spiced pineapple-marmalade syrup, 1/2 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice, shake like hell with ice, and strain into a coupe glass.

  • January 10, 2015 6:59pm

    Hi David,
    Thank you for the recipe! I made it for a New Years Eve party and it was a hit! I used apricot preserves, peach schnapps, a 1/2 teaspoon each of ground cinnamon and allspice, and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. The only snag was that, after 40 minutes at 300 F, there was no sign of browning. I increased the temperature to 325 F and after 20 minutes the surface was slightly browned. Then I broiled it for about three minutes, but that turned out to be a mistake since the surface became slightly scorched. I ended up cutting off the burned spots.

    I wonder if “caramelized pineapple” is a somewhat misleading title for this recipe, since caramelization of sugar starts to take place at about 320 F. Wouldn’t “baked pineapple” be better?