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Sugar-free Christmas compote, Spanish style

>> Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas compote
This is a very classic dessert in many countries of Europe, with different tweakings. In my crusade against common sugar, I decided to try and make it sugar-free. It's incredibly easy and you can get as tipsy as ever while eating alcohol-oozing-fruits, but with less bad conscience... my family is gonna give me a medal for that, I know it. Well, most of the alcohol just evaporates during the cooking. Pity. Instead of using red wine for poaching the fruit, which is the traditional ingredient in Spain, I prefer sweet wine, preferrably light in color for a nicer look and a milder taste. I looove sweet wine and besides you don't need to add as much sugar or sweetener in this case, as the sweet wine is... well, sweet, brimming with healthy fruit sugars.


Regarding the fruity ingredients, it's totally up to you. I'm giving here the fruits of my choice, but that's very personal. Some people prefer it with more fresh fruit, others with more dried fruit... Here's my take on this dish:

Sugar-free Christmas compote, Spanish style

  • 250 g pitted dried apricots
  • 100 g pitted dried dates
  • 100 g pitted dried prunes
  • 200 g dried figs
  • 2 firm pears (Conference for example)
  • 500 ml white sweet wine like moscatel (you can use a tawny port too)
  • 500 ml water
  • 1 stick cinammon
  • 1 tsp allspice (optional)
  • 1 dash orange extract or 1 tsp orange zest (also optional)
Some people like to add apple too, but the apples must have a very firm flesh, so that they don't "deconstruct". Please use the best quality dried fruit available. It makes a difference. In Spain dried fruit is very popular and usually of good quality. Dried fruit is eaten in tons around Christmas.

The preparation is pretty straightforward. Peel the pears, quarter them and put all the ingredients together in an enameled pot. Bring to a boil. Simmer until all the fruit is tender, around 40-50 minutes depending on the ripeness of the fresh fruit and the freshness of the dried fruit. I boil the compote without any sweetener and then try for sweetness when done, because you can always adjust it later. In this case the result was, in my humble opinion, sweet enough, which means I was using a VERY sweet wine. So I didn't add anything else. If more sweetness is needed, please avoid filthy synthetic sweeteners like aspartame and use natural sweeteners like agave syrup and maple syrup.

Christmas compote
If you find the liquid too thin, just add some powdered gelatin or agar-agar to thicken it a bit. Remember that without sugar you don't get a syrupy liquid.

There's something that's often overlooked when subtituting sweeteners, whether natural or synthetic, for sugar: its preserving properties. Sugar is a hygroscopic substance, which means that it "scavenges" the water surrounding its molecules. Therefore the sugar molecules "steal" the water that microorganisms need to thrive. I can't give you the reference where I found this... I don't remember. Believe me, I'm a chemist... (pause)... (silence)... you, at the end of the class, I won't tolerate any giggling... Well, that's why this sugar-free compote must be kept in the fridge and I guess its "shelf-life" will be shorter than if it was sugar-full. Of course, you can always store it in jars and sterilize them, like any other preserve. But I'm sure the compote will have no time to go bad at my home. This compote is delicious served with vanilla ice-cream or on a waffle cup with custard... yum.

16 comentarios:

Junglefrog December 15, 2009 at 5:05 PM  

That looks seriously good and... I would never ever dear laugh (or giggle) at you being a chemist... lol.. I didn't know that bit about sugar though!

Tasty Trix December 15, 2009 at 5:30 PM  

I love it! The fruit that eats like a drink, oh yeah. Would honey work as a sweetener do you think? (I would never use a filthy fake sweetener, I promise!)

Vegetable Matter December 15, 2009 at 6:48 PM  

Beautiful compote. My grandmother ALWAYS had a compote cooking on the stove with whatever fruit she had on hand. We would add compote to everything at her house. You've brought back good memories for me.

NOELLE December 15, 2009 at 7:55 PM  

NICE! I have been wanting to make a fruit compote so you now have inspired me to make the recipe my mom used to make. It had orange blossom water and honey!~

Janice December 15, 2009 at 9:57 PM  

Mmm I love dried fruits soaked in alcohol or if not that then in cold tea which gives thema brilliant flavour.

Drick December 15, 2009 at 11:40 PM  

my, that looks so wonderfully delicious and so easy to do - normally have cold fruit salads but this it it!!!!

pinkstripes December 16, 2009 at 12:58 AM  

YUM. I love boozy tasting desserts.

My Man's Belly December 16, 2009 at 2:20 AM  

It's sort of like a heartier winter version of Sangria ;)

kathyvegas December 16, 2009 at 5:30 AM  

Gorgeous!!!

Miriam December 16, 2009 at 10:22 AM  

Simone: XD
Trix: I think honey would be perfect, sure!
VM: mmmm, we all have memories like that, don't we? ;-)
Noelle: wow, orange blossom water, great idea!
Janice: sure!
Drick: yes, that's the good thing, easy and effective
PS: ;-)
MMB: well, you can't drink this one :-D
Kathy: thanks!

Tania December 16, 2009 at 11:07 AM  

Wonderful pictures and fantastic compote!

Bellini Valli December 16, 2009 at 11:35 AM  

Using a white sweet wine makes this dish the perfect indulgence.

lisa December 16, 2009 at 2:54 PM  

The plumped fruits look delicious! It's a beautiful dessert.

CaptnRachel aka Tha Pizza Cutta December 16, 2009 at 5:42 PM  

mm, this is excellent for my diabetic dad, but I wonder if the alcohol will affect his sugars. either way, I'm still emailing him your recipe!

MrsLavendula December 20, 2009 at 7:50 AM  

looks delicious!

Miriam December 23, 2009 at 11:36 PM  

Tania: thanks!
Val: mmm, yes
Lisa: thank you!
Rachel: I'm not sure about that either...
Mrs. Lavendula: thanks!

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