How to roast a whole pineapple in this easy yet delicious dessert. Pineapple is baked with a caramel of vanilla, passion fruit and dark rum. Includes a brief history of pineapples at Versailles.
As we’re enjoying the pineapple season, I can’t help noticing pineapples in all sorts of different forms on gateposts, staircases and even teapots during teatimes in Paris.
Brief History of Pineapples
Ever since Christopher Columbus brought the pineapple to Europe from Guadaloupe in 1493, this exotic fruit has symbolised wealth and generous hospitality. By the 18th century, pineapples were such a rare, expensive delicacy that they weren’t always eaten straight away.
Pineapples were seen as a wealth indicator and the utmost symbol to welcome guests.
So they adorned dinner tables as centre-pieces and could even be rented out by the day. Royalty and the aristocracy wanted to be seen with such a rare – and exotic – status symbol, so set about discovering how to grow them.
For more, see the market page on pineapples.
Growing Pineapples at Versailles
The Sun King, Louis XIV, wasn’t too enamoured with pineapples, apparently all-too-eagerly biting into one – spiky skin and all – so Jean-Baptiste Le Quintinye, botanist of the King’s Fruit and Vegetable Garden at Versailles had no pressure to grow them.
Louis XV, however, learned from his predecessor and adored the sweet pineapple. So in 1735, his gardener, Louis Le Normand made a breakthrough at Versailles. Instead he grew them in a layer of fermented manure, trapping heat under glass bells.
Pineapples in Architecture
How many pineapple motifs have you seen recently? They’re normally carved out of stone and wood, decorating front doors, gates, bed-posts, staircases and linens – all to symbolise the ultimate hospitality to guests.
Have you seen the Scottish Pineapple? It’s a wacky stone building with a pineapple roof that was constructed by the 5th Earl of Dunmore in the 1760s. This is a place I’d love to stay in Scotland, as it has been beautifully restored. For much more fruity fascinating facts about the pineapple, I recommend Gary Okihiro’s book, Pineapple Culture.
Can you Bake a Whole Pineapple in the Oven?
Indeed you can bake a pineapple – and whole too. Just remove its skin and bake in the oven for about an hour. First make a quick caramel then add vanilla, banana or passion fruit and rum then pour over the skinned pineapple. Every 10-15 minutes, spoon over the caramel over the pineapple. When you open the oven, the smells around the kitchen are incredible!
Inspired by the roasted pineapple recipe, Ananas Rôti from Larousse des desserts by Pierre Hermé. I replaced banana with passion fruit, used half the amount of vanilla pods and omitted the ginger and spice.
Roasted Pineapple with Chilli
Love heat with the exotic? Add a good pinch of cayenne pepper or chilli powder to this recipe. Even add some crystallised stem ginger, according to taste. The chilli heat goes so well with the passion fruit and pineapple flavours.
This dessert is delicious served simply on its own. However, take this to the next level for guests.
Slice the roasted pineapple into slices and top with vanilla or coconut ice cream. Even better, press ice cream into pretty moulds like in the above photo and surround with the remaining caramelised vanilla roasted pineapple juices. Top with a dried pineapple flower – to make these, see my post for dried rhubarb chips, and follow exactly the same techniques.
For another dessert, try this French-style rice pudding, Pineapple Riz Condé.
How do YOU like your pineapple?
Roasted Vanilla Pineapple with Passion Fruit
- 1 large pineapple (or 2 small pineapples)
- 2 vanilla pods (beans)
- 150 g sugar
- 250 ml water warm
- 2 passion fruits
- 2 tbsp dark rum
- Prepare the syrup: carmelise the sugar with a couple of drops of water over a low heat without stirring. Meanwhile, cut 2 vanilla pods down the middle and scrape out the seeds using a sharp knife. Reserve the emptied pods.
- As soon as the caramel turns a dark golden colour, add the scraped vanilla seeds then the warmed water (it's important it's warm-hot, otherwise the caramel will instantly harden.) Stir using a wooden spoon and bring to the boil.
- Take off the heat then add the passion fruit and rum.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C. Prepare the pineapple by cutting off the outer skin with a sharp knife.
- Cut the remaining 2 vanilla pods in half vertically and stick them into the pineapple along with the other reserved pods. Place the pineapple in a roasting tin, pour over the syrup (if you don't like the passion fruit seeds, strain through a sieve) and roast in the oven for about an hour, spooning the syrup over the pineapple every 10-15 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly.