Arsip Tag: pear

pear crisps with vanilla brown butter – smitten kitchen

It has been seven days since I told you about the fennel ice cream I made last week, and indicated that I would be telling you about what I was going to pair it with (actually, I said “pear” it with, because I can never resist the opportunity to make people roll their eyes) within a day or two. And it’s been a week! My nerviness knows no bounds! How do you put up with this teasing? Will there be mutiny on the smittenkitchen bounty?

what you'll need
It’s probably not going to help when I tell you the following:

Brown Butter

peel the pearscore, chop the pearsvanilla brown butterpartially cook the pearsbrown butter crisp toppingpear crisps with vanilla brown butter

It’s also not going to help when I stop right here. Because what else is there to say? What words can I add to a dessert that could possible make it more appealing than Vanilla Brown Butter Pear Crisp? Nothing, nada. If you are swooning right now, you’d be correct. If you’re not, well, you should be. Or you would be, if you had tried it. Or leftover in the days that followed, warmed up in the microwave with a scoop of melty fennel ice cream on top. The almond kept the crisp “crispy.” The vanilla bean and brown butter made it extra-prosh. The pears always wanted to be baked, anyway. What more could you need?

pear crisps with vanilla brown butter

One year ago: Chicken Skewers with Dukkah Crust and Balsamic Reduction, Pan-Browned Brussels Sprouts

Update: The big 2020 overhaul: I revisited this recipe recently because I know there had been some concerns about the topping burning before the pears baked through and also about the sandiness of the topping. It was originally published in the October 2007 issue of Gourmet magazine from a restaurant in Kirkland, WA called Cafe Juanita. The creator of the recipe, Holly Smith, herself said that the printed recipe had errors. I tracked down her version but I still had some trouble with the recipe and ended up fully reworking it where I want it to be in hopes that it will delight everyone as much as pears with vanilla bean brown butter should.

Here are a few of the changes: I added lemon to the pears, which really keeps the filling from being too mellow. The topping had lacked brown butter (it was only in the filling) so now I make enough vanilla brown butter for both the topping and filling and use it in both places. I reduced the amount of almonds in the topping, trying to get it to clump more, but it’s still overall a looser topping — a crisp, not a crumble. The ramekin measurement was incorrect — you’ll want to use 7 6-ounce ramekins (if you use 8-ounce, as originally printed, you will only make 4 to 5 and they felt too big for one person). But here’s the biggest change: I now briefly (5 to 10 minutes, depending on how firm your pears are) saute the filling on the stove before baking it. Once it’s in the oven, you’ll only need to bake it for 15 more minutes. This not only makes it faster, but it keeps the topping from burning before the pears bake through.

The result is absolute winter magnificence. You must serve this warm (reheating if needed) to get all of the toasty brown butter, vanilla bean, lemon, pear, and almond notes and please put a little scoop of ice cream on top. It deserves nothing less. You can find the Gourmet version online if you miss the previous version I had printed here.

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pear and almond tart – smitten kitchen

A lot more than anyone should, I fixate on Paris. It’s not just that we got engaged there, returned a little over a year later just because we missed it and scheme to find a way to expat ourselves there one day or at least for a couple years; no, that would be too obvious. My obsession lies with the fact that, as with all things we pine for, the grass just seems so much greener over there, from the Velib bikes to the old buildings which are never crushed to make room for fugly glass and concrete monoliths, and do I even need to get started about the respect given to artisan crafts from pastry to bread baking?

three boscs

Thus, it was with great interest that I came across an article written by Dorie Greenspan for Bon Appetit a couple years ago about yet another thing that makes French women so fabulous–aside from the fact that they’re always perfectly dressed without looking like they’re trying too hard and can tie a scarf with their eyes closed while I do mine in front of a mirror and it still looks awkward. It’s because they say things like “Why’d do you do it?”—”it” being baking a rich chocolate cake topped with raspberries and chocolate ganache—”I mean, it’s great, but cakes like this are the reason pastry shops were invented.”

sweet tart shellpears, poaching

As someone who delights in making elaborate cakes, but also advises people to only choose one plat de resistance when entertaining, this captivated me. French women, says Dorie, keep it simple when they bake at home, and they’re not afraid to use bits and pieces purchased elsewhere–a tart dough, some prepared fruit, almond paste–to get the job done.

frangipane misefrangipane

For example, it is not uncommon for French women to use canned pears in this Pear and Almond Tart, or a ready to be rolled sweet pastry dough. And boy, I could have used one of those doughs this Sunday, when the ground-almond version I used gave me so much trouble–dry, crumbly, loathsome–that after four failed attempts to roll it out, I threw it in the garbage and made a new one. However, in my trial but mostly error, I decided that this new one, the one I have posted here today, will be the only one I ever used because, get this, it barely shrunk at all. This is a first in the smitten kitchen, but I hope not the last.

poached pears, halvedassembling the tart

Ironically enough, this is quite close to a recipe that shrunk mercilessly on me a few months ago, leading me to believe that it is the technique, not recipe that saved the day. And what is this technique, pray tell? It is fully freezing the dough and lining it tightly with foil before baking the shell.

pear almond tart

I didn’t trust the quality of readily-available canned pears in the store–Chelsea, you are no Paris, though I know you try–but fortunately, poaching the pears was little trouble. Once I had the shell baked, the pears poached and the filling whirled in the food processor, I ran out of time to bake the tart (typical) and packed all three parts up to go to my parents for dinner. Sure, my mother already had a dessert planned but you see, I had to make this tart for my mom. You see, she is a marzipan fanatic and if you have a marzipan fanatic in your life, you need to introduce them to frangipane, stat. Made with ground almonds, butter, an egg and a splash of extract or brandy, they’ll think they’ve died and gone to heaven.

Which, really, is a perfect time to ask them to sponsor your next trip to Paris.

pear almond tart

One year ago: Vegetable Dumplings, Pasta with Baked Tomato Sauce

Best Sweet Tart Crust
Adapted from a few Dorie Greenspan recipes

Makes enough for one 9-inch tart crust

1 1/2 cups (190 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (60 grams) confectioner’s sugar
1/4 teaspoon (1 to 2 grams) table salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons, 4 1/2 ounces or 130 grams) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

1. Put the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in — you should have pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulse about 10 seconds each until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change; heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing. Chill the dough, wrapped in plastic wrap, for about 2 hours before rolling.*

2. To roll the dough: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Roll out chilled dough on floured sheet of parchment paper to 12-inch round, lifting and turning dough occasionally to free from paper. Using paper as aid, turn dough into 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom; peel off paper. Seal any cracks in dough. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch. Fold overhang in, making double-thick sides. Pierce crust all over with fork.

3. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

4. To fully bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil (or use nonstick foil) and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. (Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights.) Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes.

5. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon (or prick it with the tip of a small knife). Bake the crust about 10 minutes longer, or until it is firm and golden brown, brown being the important word: a pale crust doesn’t have a lot of flavor. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature.

Storing: The dough can be wrapped and kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months. While the fully baked crust can be packed airtight and frozen for up to 2 months, the flavor will be fresher bake it directly from the freezer, already rolled out–just add about 5 minutes to the baking time.

* Alternate press-in technique: If you want to use the press-in method, you can work with the dough as soon as it’s processed. Just press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Don’t be too heavy-handed; press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but don’t press so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture.

Pear and Almond Tart
Adapted from Bon Appetit, February 2005

If you’d like to use canned pears halves for this–it is trés French, you see–just drain the canned pears, dry them very well, and carry on.

4 cups (950 ml) water
1 1/4 cups (225 grams) sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons (20 ml) fresh lemon juice
3 medium-size firm but ripe Bosc pears, peeled (each about 7 ounces or 200 grams)

Almond Filling
2/3 cup (75 grams) blanched slivered almonds
1 tablespoon (10 grams) all purpose flour
7 tablespoons (90 grams) sugar
6 tablespoons (3 ounces or 85 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon almond extract or 2 teaspoons (10 ml) brandy (optional)

1 sweet tart shell, baked (recipe above)

Powdered sugar (optional)

For pears: Bring 4 cups water, sugar, and lemon juice to boil in large saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add pears. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until pears are very tender, turning occasionally, about 20 minutes. Cool pears in syrup. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

For almond filling: Finely grind almonds and flour in processor. Mix in 7 tablespoons sugar, then butter and flavorings (if using). Blend until smooth. Mix in egg. Transfer filling to medium bowl. Cover and chill at least 3 hours. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.)

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Spread almond filling evenly in baked tart crust. Stem pears and cut each in half lengthwise; scoop out cores. Cut each half crosswise into thin slices. Gently press each pear half to fan slices but keep slices tightly overlapped. Slide spatula under pears and arrange atop filling like spokes of wheel with narrow ends in center.

Bake tart until golden and tester inserted into center of filling comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Cool tart in pan on rack. Push pan bottom up, releasing tart from pan. (Can be made 8 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.) Cut tart into wedges; sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired, and serve.

See also: A summer version — Plum-Almond Tart

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bittersweet chocolate and pear cake – smitten kitchen

Almost two years ago, Alex and I met friends for dinner at Al Di La, an always-packed, funky mom-and-pop Italian restaurant in Park Slope that not only doesn’t take reservations, it has no room for you to stand around while you wait for one (unless you go to the adjacent wine bar). It helps to know someone who works there.

Before we went, Alex dug up their menu online (does anyone remember life back when you actually had to arrive at a restaurant to find out what they served? Probably less tripe and rabbits feet on the menu, eh?) and decided at that very moment that we must order the torta di pere, a bittersweet chocolate and pear cake. “Fruit and chocolate together?” I said, “Why is this necessary?” as I had always insisted that they were better apart.

eggs, getting to room temppearspeeled pearswhipping and whipping the eggsbrown butter batterbatter, piled with pears and chocolate

And of course, like all good teaching stories, then we tried it, licked the plate and then I proceeded to spend the next year and a half (until she caved) begging my friend Anna, one of the restaurant’s pastry chefs, for the recipe because, you see, I have no tact at all. Or perhaps the bittersweet chocolate and pear cake was that good. Did I mention it has browned butter in it? Obviously, good manners had to wait.

bittersweet chocolate and pear cake

A nomination! It seems that Smitten Kitchen has been nominated as one of the best-written food blogs (aw, though the people who email me daily with grammatical corrections may beg to differ!) by the Well-Fed Network. Why thank you!

Al Di La’s Torta di Pere [Bittersweet Chocolate and Pear Cake]
Courtesy of Al Di La Restaurant in Park Slope, Brooklyn

Aside from the chocolate chunks, the bits of pear and the browned butter (like I you need to hear anything else before you take off in the direction of the kitchen) one of the coolest things about baking this cake is the eggs, that are beaten far beyond “combined” or “fluffy” but until they have the volume of a shiny, velvety ribbon of a custard, or in other words, if you have an electric mixer of any sort, this is the time to use it. You don’t want to skimp on this set.

The next coolest thing about this is that as I was making it, I was so befuddled by putting the pear and chocolate pieces on top of the cake, as I clearly remembered them to be inside it. Yet the cake rises up in the oven and tucks them into their fold and, lo, it is a glorious, delicious thing.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, at room-temperature
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 pears, peeled, in a small dice (I used anjou, but would recommend a softer variety, like a bosc or any other of your favorites)
3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chunks

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and dust with breadcrumbs (I cheated and used flour), set aside.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together, set aside.

Using a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the eggs on high speed until pale and very thick. (In a professional Kitchen Aid, it takes at least five minutes; on a home machine, it will take nine minutes to get sufficient volume)

While the eggs are whipping, brown the butter. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan (because it will foam a lot) and cook it until the butter browns and smells nutty (about 6 to 8 minutes). It helps to frequently scrape the solids off the bottom of the pan in the last couple minutes to ensure even browning. Remove from the flame but keep in a warm spot.

Add the sugar to the eggs and whip a few minutes more.

Just as the egg-sugar mixture is starting to lose volume, turn the mixture down to stir, and add the flour mixture and brown butter. Add one third of the flour mixture, then half of the butter, a third of the flour, the remaining butter, and the rest of flour. Whisk until just barely combined — no more than a minute from when the flour is first added — and then use a spatula to gently fold the batter until the ingredients are combined. It is very important not to over-whisk or fold the batter or it will lose volume.

Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle the pear and chocolate chunks over the top, and bake until the cake is golden brown and springs back to the touch, about 40 to 50 minutes [updated, thanks for your responses], or a tester comes out clean.

We served it with barely whipped whipped cream with a drop of almond extract in it, but I believe Anna serves it with buttermilk ice cream at the restaurant, which is, the best thing in the entire world, something I have the recipe for and promise to tell you about soon. (I’m just scared to make it because I ate the entire pint she gave me last time by myself. In three days.)

Update 1/27/09: I’ve added more baking suggestions in the comments: in short, please, don’t take your cake out before it is done. Doneness is much more important than baking times.

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pear bread – smitten kitchen

A year and a half ago, an Op-Ed ruined bananas for me. Everyone knows in a kid’s mind, there are only three fruits: apples, oranges and bananas. Apples grow in the fall. Oranges grow by grandma’s house in Florida. And bananas grow in… corporation-cleared rainforest in Latin America by laborers deprived of worker’s rights, an economic condition reinforced by heavy-handed military tactics? Egads, people, I so didn’t learn that side of the story as a kid.

pears, eggs, dry ingredientspears, ready to grategrated pearready to bake

Look, I didn’t give up bananas that day; they’re still sliced them into my oatmeal, over my cottage cheese and eaten to occasionally convince myself that it’s not a real dessert I’m craving, and I’m not here to nudge you to either. But there has been a whole lot less banana bread in my life since last year, and I’ve missed it. Yet you can imagine my surprise realizing that most of what made banana bread awesome for me had little to do with bananas, something I discovered making pear bread last week.

letting it snow

What they share in common is a subtlety, a quietness that goes so gently with a mid-afternoon cup of coffee. That, cinnamon, a rich crumb and an ease in putting them together. Unlike banana bread, I didn’t go head-over-heels for this the moment it came out of the oven. We liked it, but we didn’t flip over it just yet. That came the next day, and then the day after that, and was reinforced now five days later: this cake keeps getting better, and it’s been the coziest part of the holiday so far, second only to this sighing bundle zonked out by the fire, after being hypnotized by the tree’s sparkling lights. I hope your day has been at least as cozy and warm.

pear bread

One year ago: Gramercy Tavern’s Gingerbread
Two years ago: Blue Cheese Iceberg Wedge
Three years ago: Stuffed Mushrooms and Gougères

Pear Bread
Adapted from Nancy McDermott’s Southern Cakes, which attributes it to one Cornelia Walker

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
3/4 cup butter, softened, or 3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups sugar
2 to 4 pears firm, ripe pears, depending on size (you’ll need 2 grated cups total, but I don’t recommend you grate them until you are about to use them, so they don’t brown)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Heat your oven to 350°F (175°C) and lightly grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan or two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans.

Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl, and stir with a fork to mix everything well. If you’re using nuts, scoop out about 1/4 cup of the flour mixture and combine it in a small bowl with the chopped walnuts, stirring and tossing to coat the nuts with the flour.

Peel and core pears, then grate them. You’ll want two grated cups total; set them briefly aside. In a medium bowl, combine the butter or oil, eggs, sugar, grated pear, nuts (if using), and vanilla, and stir to mix everything well. Scrape the pear mixture into the flour mixture and stir just until the flour disappears and the batter is evenly moistened.

Quickly scrape the batter into the prepared pans and bake at 350°F (175°C) for 60 to 70 minutes, or until the bread is handsomely browned and firm on top and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool the bread in the pan on a wire rack or folded kitchen towel for about 10 minutes. Then turn it out onto a plate or a wire rack to cool completely, top side up. Serve it as is, sprinkle it with confectioners sugar or drizzle it with a simple glaze made from whisking 3 tablespoons buttermilk, a dash of vanilla and 2 cups of confectioners’ sugar together.

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radicchio, apple and pear salad – smitten kitchen

A few people have asked me what I thought of the food on the cruise we took and I admit, I’ve been dodging the question. If there could be a tiny, unfortunate thing at making a craft of getting food to taste the exact way you wish it to in your own kitchen, it would definitely be that the food outside it never tastes as good as it once did — especially food at a week long all-you-can-eat-buffet. Given, understandably, that nobody wants to eat their spaghetti while you espouse on all of the techniques the kitchen could have employed to avoid gumminess, like I said, I mostly shut up.

two heads of radicchio
radicchio, leaves

I’ll tell you this, though — the salad bar delighted me. Seriously, guys, this is what counts as a good time these days: salad. I just love being able to plop this, that and the other on a bed of lettuce — real ones, like arugula and butter lettuce and freaking radicchio, people. They had it out every night.

torn radicchio leaves, piled

mayo, hand whisked

I also came to realize on the trip that as much as I love a light, delicate vinaigrette with an equally delicate pile of greens, the busier and crunchier my salad gets, the richer and creamier I want my dressing — and I don’t mean suspiciously creamy, like those bottled “ranch” variants. So when I got home with all of these salad thoughts on my mind and had about 15 minutes to prepare a Passover seder for 8.5 (the .5 really just licked the Hagaddah) I remembered (yes, another) glorious salad recipe from Sunday Suppers that seemed right up my alley.

the mess builds

It sounds simple — leafy things, sliced fruit and a creamy dressing — but it is so much more — bitter, bitter radicchio with slivers of fresh mint, tart sliced apples, sweet and crisp sliced pears, and a dressing that so ridiculously thick and rich — hand-whisked mayonnaise, buttermilk and crème fraîche will do that, you know? — it’s the perfect contrast to the rest of the salad, rich, indulgent and almost luxurious. These things, we like them.

radicchio apple and pear salad

One year ago: Artichoke Olive Crostini
Two years ago: Spring Panzanella
Three years ago: Arugula Cranberry Bean and Artichoke Salad

Radicchio, Apple and Pear Salad
Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques

1 extra-large egg yolk (I used one large and a smidgen of another)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (suggested for its neutrality; I used half olive oil but suggest you do so sparingly as the olive flavor becomes very pronounced)
2 tablespoons finely diced shallot
1 to 2 lemons, for juicing
1/4 cup crème fraîche (did you know you can make your own?)
1/4 cup buttermilk (did you know you can make your own?)
2 apples, firm, crisp and juicy
2 pears, Asian or your favorite variety
2 heads radicchio
2 tablespoons sliced mint
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the egg yolk in a stainless steel bowl. Begin whisking in the grapeseed oli drop by drop, as slowly as you can bear. (I find having a second person dripping it in makes it easier.) Continue in this manner until the mixture begins to thicken.Once the mayo has emulsified, you can add the rest of the oil in a slow, steady stream (however, as a beginner, I still take it very slowly), whisking all the time. Arm getting tired? Try to murmur “jiggle-free upper arms… sleeveless sundresses…” to yourself. I find it helps.

Combine the shallot, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a small bowl and let it sit for 5 minutes. Whisk in the crème fraîche and buttermilk. Gently whisk this mixture into the mayonnaise, and taste for balance and seasoning.

Slice the apples and pears away from the core. Cut into 1/8-inch thick slices (I went even thinner, using a mandoline) and place them in a large salad bowl. Tear the radicchio into bite-sized pieces and add to the salad bowl. Toss salad with half of dressing (Goin suggests three-fourths but I found this to make an overly-creamy salad; you can always add more) and season with salt and pepper. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and a little more dressing if necessary.

Transfer to a platter (chilled, if you’re being fancy) and scatter the mint and parsley on top.

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vanilla bean pear sauce – smitten kitchen

There’s an old-school rule in blogging: Don’t begin a post with an apology. Nobody cares! They’re just happy you’re there! But guys, I’m sorry, because this post is photo-bereft. I made pears while I was still firmly of the mind that nobody would ever need my boring “cook, then puree” baby food recipes and only snapped a couple shots. I’ll turn in my food blogging credentials now.

Although pears were only the second “dish” I made for the baby, I was already getting impatient to move onto more exciting things. I had been trying to adhere to the “only introduce one new food at a time” rule, which meant that with only apples under his belt (also, his chin, neck rolls and toes, somehow, and do not even try to wipe his face, okay?) I couldn’t jump into the pear-parsnips, pear-peaches and pear-prunes I was chomping at the bit to whiz up. Sure, I could add cinnamon to plain pears, but I really don’t want the baby to think that all cooked fruit tastes like cinnamon, especially when the hope is to introduce new flavors. So I decided to hedge things a little — yes, this is what counts as “walking on the wild side” in these post-salad days — and added a little vanilla bean and a glug of an aged, sweet balsamic vinegar.

downtrodden bosc pears

Unless you’ve macerated strawberries in balsamic before and know how utterly sinful the fruit-balsamic combination can be, you’re likely having the same reaction right now that my husband did, “Vinegar? With pears? Ew.” But it’s just a tiny bit, and it gives the mellow pears more oomph and more depth. I know this sounds a little rich for a 7-month old’s blood — aged balsamic and vanilla beans? Have you gone off the deep end, Deb? — but were talking about tiny, tiny amounts, a tablespoon and an inch or two. The idea is to give the suggestion of a new flavor, something to hold him off until he can taste the wonder that is vanilla roasted pears.

Oh, and the baby LOVED these pears, that is, the spoonfuls he could pry from his mama’s grasp.

Vanilla Bean Pear Sauce

A few notes: The pears look utterly awful because I bought them at the Greenmarket in early April, when cold-storage apples and pears were the only fruit available; apples weather those long months more elegantly. However, once peeled they were indeed delicious Boscs, tastier by far (oh, and a heckofalot cheaper) than I’d get at the grocery store that week.

I used a pretty fancy-schmancy balasamic. I bought it years ago at a fancy-schmancy store in Paris and paid such a fancy-schmancy price for it, I could never bring myself to use it. This is why I don’t buy nice things (anymore), people. Fortunately, any regular balsamic will do. Once it hits the heat, the acidity disappears and you’re left with a syrupy depth that makes a lovely complement to the pears’ mildness.

1 3/4 pounds pears (I used Bosc)
A 2-inch length of vanilla bean, halved and seeds scraped or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 1/4 cups water

Peel, halve, core and de-stem pears. Chop them in half again if they are particularly large. Place pears in a medium saucepan with the vanilla bean segments and scrapings, or extract, balsamic and water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer; cook with the lid on for 30 minutes, or until the pears are very tender. Let cool in their cooking liquid. Fish out the vanilla bean segment and puree pears in a food processor, blender or food mill.

Check out the Tools page for more on the ABC’s of how I’m approaching the preparation, storage and daily serving of these foods.

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pear cranberry and gingersnap crumble – smitten kitchen

In my defense, I resisted this crumble for possibly even a single hour before going to the kitchen to assemble the ingredients. A whole hour, an hour in which we could have had a buttery, spiced gingersnap and brown sugar crumbled lid atop a glurp-ing puddle of soft, sweet pears and slumped, tart cranberries, bubbling through cracks in the rubbled surface. An hour in which I instead thought there were better things to do, like pretending to clean the kitchen while staring into space and imagining how good the crumble could be. They give out medals for this kind of valor, right?

the line-up
shedding pear skins

My husband and I, well, we’re exactly as exciting as you might imagine because we talk about pears a lot. I’ll take the blame, I’m sure I usually start the conversation, which goes roughly like, “Pears? Really? You just don’t like pears?” And he’ll say “They’re just so one note. They’re sweet and boring,” usually while slicing another of his beloved Granny Smith apples into perfect quarters. (He’s such a tidy eater people, I comparatively eat with the grace of a Hoover). And the thing is, I agree with him 100 percent, but I see these things as characteristics, not flaws. However, in baking, I agree that pears could use a little help. They like acid and they like berries; brighter fall spices like ginger play off them well and you’ll be surprised what a pinch of white pepper can do to wake them up.

de-bellied pears

ready to go

This crumble is adapted from a pie in a cookbook that came out a few years ago from a bakery in Park Slope called Sweet Melissa. The pie was single-crusted with a regular butter dough, but I skipped the base because I knew it would just play third fiddle to all the excitement on top of it. I like my pie doughs to garner as much attention as possible, thank you very much. As a crumble, this is another page in the fall bliss book, right up there with black bean pumpkin soup, cider doughnuts, harvest festivals and telling your kid that you’ll buy the biggest pumpkin he can lift only to find that he’s really quite a show-off and you’re going to be eating toasted pumpkin seeds until February. I digress! I made a few other changes — namely that I dialed back the sugar significantly, and am very happy that I did — but I kept the real genius of Melissa’s pie intact, which is they way she balanced the mellowness of the pear with all sorts of bright things like lemon, cranberries and a backdrop of spice. That gentle heat is dreamy, just perfect for the cooler days to come.

pear cranberry and gingersnap crumble + yogurt

One year ago: Spiced Applesauce Cake
Two years ago: Cauliflower with Almonds, Raisins and Capers, Silky Decadent Old-School Chocolate Mousse
Three years ago: Deep, Dark Salted Caramel Sauce, Pink Lady Cake and Cabbage and Mushroom Galette
Four years ago: Gluten-Free Chocolate Financiers, Pumpkin Butter + Pepita Granola
Five years ago: Spinach Quiche and Pumpkin Muffins

Pear, Cranberry and Gingersnap Crumble
Adapted from Sweet Melissa Patisserie

1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons (37 grams) packed dark or light brown sugar
1 cup gingersnap crumbs (4 ounces or 113 grams or about 16 storebought cookies)
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon table salt
Pinch of white pepper, especially if your gingersnaps aren’t particularly snappish
1/2 cup (4 ounces or 113 grams or 1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 pounds (about 4 to 5) large ripe pears (I used Anjou, suggested in the original recipe) peeled, halved, cored and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces or 170 grams) fresh cranberries
1 tablespoon (15 ml) lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons (14 grams) cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Stir together the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, gingersnap crumbs, ginger and salt. Stir in the melted butter until large crumbs form.

In a 1 1/2 to 2 quart baking dish, mix the pears, cranberries, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla. In a small bowl, whisk the sugar and cornstarch together then toss it with the fruit mixture in the pan. Sure, you could do this in a bowl but then you’d also have to wash that bowl and hooray for fewer dishes.

Sprinkle the gingersnap crumble over the fruit. Set the crumble on a foil-lined baking sheet (in a 2 quart dish, mine didn’t come close to bubbling over but I see no reason to risk it) and bake it for about 45 minutes, until the crumble is a shade darker and you see juices bubbling through the crumbs. See how long you can wait before digging in.

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roasted pear and chocolate chunk scones – smitten kitchen

One of the saddest things you should probably know about me is that I’m a terrible host. I don’t mean to be; in my head, I’m the kind of person who would find out you were coming over, quickly gather some wildflowers from the side of the road, put them in an old Mason jar, pour-over some coffee from a local roaster, steam cream from an upstate dairy in a spouted glass and pull out something warm and enticing from the oven right as you arrived. In my head, I understand that none of these things are terribly difficult to pull off. In reality, were you to come over right now, you’d find a plate of pears (one with a toddler mouth-sized bite removed) and mostly-empty jar of something delicious, but alas, too delicious to have lasted until you arrived, on the table, a colossal explosion of wooden train tracks and fire station parts all over the carpet and a fireman in a time out (“What did he do?” I asked. “He did NOTHING!” I was informed. Well, then…). Also notable is the absent aroma of freshly-brewed coffee. Upon closer inspection, you might see that I don’t actually own any coffee-making apparatus. And not a single warm thing has left the oven this morning; we had stove-top oatmeal for breakfast again.

tippy pears
peeling the pears

Seriously, you’d revoke my book contact if you saw this place. I might have kept this to myself forever, but I have been found out. I have been found out because in the last month, more strangers have entered my apartment than have in the three-plus years we’ve lived here. They come under the auspices of writing articles about tiny kitchens or wanting to watch me make a recipe from the cookbook, but I know the truth: they want to see how we really live and when they find out, well, I hope they are relieved because are all of the fruits in your bowl intact? Are no firemen in unjust time outs? Good, you’re a step ahead.

pretty pears get a longer photo shoot

chopping the pears
partially roasted chunks of pear
chopped chocolate
let the paddle bang up the pear chunks
a mound of sticky dough, don't fret! just flour.
six generous scone wedges
ready to bake

Nevertheless, because this is my website and because on my website, I get to try (occasionally) to put my best foot forward, I am going to tell you about the morning two weeks ago that I had two guests over and I actually pulled off hospitality. Mostly. I mean, one person had been here before, thus she knew it was smart to bring coffee in. But these scones were so wonderful that I think they make up for all sorts of things, like the pile of platters and bowls that sit on a corner chair, have spilled out from a cabinet so long ago, we don’t even notice them anymore. I started with a recipe for scones I’d made a few years ago, but instead of apples, I used pears (not the one with the bite taken out; you’re welcome) and instead of accenting it with cheddar, I used chunks of bittersweet chocolate. These enormous roasted pear and chocolate chunk scones — assembled the night before, baked directly from the freezer before my morning guests arrived — were a revelation; craggy, hearty, a little crunchy, tender in the center, crisp at the edges, gorgeously bronzed and an ideal balance of light sweetness but late-October indulgence. I am not sure I’ve ever made anything so good for breakfast guests before, or will ever be so coordinated before 9 a.m. again.

roasted pear and chocolate chunk scones
roasted pear and chocolate chunk scones

Four days! Until The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook leaves my “kitchen” and hopefully makes a home in yours. That’s less than 100 hours. This is.. wild. We’re getting a little giddy with excitement for the NYC launch on Tuesday evening. Do you think it would be rude to uninvite Sandy? She seems the type that could really wreck a good party, and we don’t need any of that.

One year ago: Homesick Texan Carnitas
Two years ago: Spicy Squash Salad with Lentils and Goat Cheese
Three years ago: Silky, Decadent Old-School Chocolate Mousse
Four years ago: Paris + A Deep, Dark Salted Butter Caramel Sauce and Pink Lady Cake
Five years ago: Sweet Potato and Sausage Soup
Six years ago: Easiest Baked Mac-and-Cheese

Roasted Pear and Chocolate Chunk Scones
Tweaked from The Perfect Finish

Makes 6 generous scones; you can absolutely make these a bit smaller and reduce their baking time accordingly

3 firmish pears (about 1 pound or 455 grams)
1 1/2 cups (190 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar plus 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated or coarse for sprinkling
1 1/2 teaspoons (8 grams) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) table salt plus additional for egg wash
6 tablespoons (85 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/4 cup (60 ml) heavy cream
1/4 cup (3 ounces or 85 grams) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or chips)
2 large eggs, 1 for dough, 1 for glaze

Heat oven to 375°F. Peel and core pears. Cut into 1-inch chunks. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange pear chunks on parchment and roast until they feel dry to the touch and look a little browned underneath, about 20 minutes. Slide parchment paper with pear chunks onto a cooling rack (or onto a plate in the fridge or freezer to speed this up) and cool to lukewarm. Leave oven on. Line baking sheet with another piece of parchment.

Whisk flour, baking powder, 1/4 cup sugar and salt together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Toss in cooled pear chunks, bits of butter, heavy cream and 1 egg. With the paddle attachment, mix the dough on low speed until it just comes together. Don’t overmix. Add the chocolate chunks and mix for 5 seconds more.

On a very well floured counter, pat out dough into a 6-inch round. Cut into 6 generous wedges and transfer to baking sheet at least two inches apart (do as I say, not as I did here!). Whisk remaining egg in a small dish with 1 teaspoon of water and a pinch of salt. Brush each scone with egg wash and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon of sugar.

Bake scones until firm and golden, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack. Serve, and pat yourself on the back for your excellent host skills.

Do ahead: You can get this recipe all the way to the point where you’d bake them, and instead cover the pan with foil or plastic wrap and freeze them overnight. Bake them directly from the freezer in the morning; they should only take a few minutes longer. For longer than overnight, transfer frozen, already shaped, scones to a freezer bag until needed. In both cases, brush the egg wash/sprinkle the sugar on while still frozen, before baking the scones.

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pear and hazelnut muffins – smitten kitchen

We all know that muffins teeter precariously on a razor-thin line that divides the food categories of “Acceptable for Breakfast” and “Nope, This Is Dessert” and one must maintain firm boundaries during the breakfast hours lest the day that follows devolve into a full-on bacchanal of Resolution decompensation that ends with one passed out amid scatters of Cheetos, ketchup packets and French fry grease with a side of cronut.

roughly chopped toasted hazelnuts
peeled pears, but no need for you to

Thus, when I come upon a new muffin recipe — or in this case, when my son is told to pick a recipe for us to make from a new book, and he predictably chooses the thing that most resembles cake — I immediately assess the list of ingredients and label them accordingly:

cored and de-stemmed

Whole grains and oats = breakfast!
White flour = cake.
An egg or two = breakfast!
Lots of eggs = cake.
Natural sweeteners = breakfast!
White sugar = cake.
Unsaturated fats = breakfast!
Butter = cake.

a lot of grated pear
freshly grated nutmeg, just because
there were, uh, a few bowls; i've streamlined things

And so this goes until the marks in each category can be tallied and a determination can be made as to whether we can pull this off during the breakfast meal. The Pear-Hazelnut Muffins from Megan Gordon’s beautiful new book, Whole Grain Mornings, came out clearly in the breakfast camp with oats, whole wheat flour and nuts and might have even remained there, had my husband not planted the idea in my head that pears (breakfast!) and hazelnuts (breakfast!) might go especially well with … chunks of chocolate. (Oops.)

I’m sorry, Megan, I know you tried to steer our mornings wholesome with this book; it just didn’t stand a chance with the likes of us.

dry into wet
and then this happened; breakfast fail
ready to bake

So, maybe we had them for dessert last night instead, but I have no regrets. These muffins have a few more ingredients than my beloved blues, but there’s a complex flavor I hadn’t remotely expected from something as usually forgettable as a muffin — grated pear, toasted hazelnuts, vanilla, butter, oats and, yes, chocolate chunks tangle together in a nubby, crunchy muffin that actually tastes amazing even a day and two after it’s baked. Not that I had one for breakfast today. (Please don’t tell my son?)

pear, hazelnut and chocolate chunk muffins
pear, hazelnut and chocolate chunk muffins

Thank you: For making yesterday’s Facebook Chat an overwhelming success — that was really fun! I tried to get to as many questions as I could throughout the afternoon and evening as well, but have a bunch to go. I’ll get to them as I find pockets of free time. Feel free to catch up right here, if you wish. Please forgive errors of grammar and spelling — that was a lot of fast typing for a couple hours! [1/15/14 Smitten Kitchen Facebook Chat]

One year ago: Lentil Soup with Sausage, Chard and Sizzling Garlic
Two years ago: Buttermilk Roast Chicken
Three years ago: Baked Potato Soup
Four years ago: Poppy Seed Lemon Cake and Black Bean Soup + Toasted Cumin Seed Crema [still my favorite accompaniment to a taco night!]
Five years ago: Light Wheat Bread
Six years ago: Our Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies
Seven years ago: Leek and Mushroom Quiche

Pear and Hazelnut Muffins
Adapted from Whole Grain Mornings

This book is a delight, creative, seasonally-sorted recipes through the lens of whole grains. I made these first (preschooler’s choice!) but have already bookmarked Bacon and Kale Polenta Squares, Strawberry Oat Breakfast Crisp, Vanilla and Cream Steel-Cut Oats Porridge, Creamy Breakfast Rice with Honey-Poached Figs and Pistachios and Zucchini-Farro Fritters, to give you an idea of what will await you when you buy the book. It’s nothing short of what you’d expect from the creator of Marge Granola.

This recipe, however, I tweaked it a bit, mostly because it used many bowls and I wanted it to use fewer. A bunch more notes: This calls for 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat (pastry flour was recommended) but I think it can be tweaked with any flour mix your prefer, be it mostly whole wheat or white whole wheat, or a gluten-free mix (Sprouted Kitchen smartly recommends 1/2 cup each of oat, almond and brown rice flour). I (always) think you could brown the butter. Yogurt thinned with a little milk could replace the buttermilk, as could coconut milk with 1 tablespoon lemon juice added, and coconut oil or olive oil could replace the butter, just to give you a few ideas. The bittersweet chocolate chunks were not necessary, but they were not regretted either.

Yield: Theoretically, 12 muffins, but I got 16.

2 small-medium firm pears
6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly (plus more for cups)
2/3 cup (125 grams) natural cane sugar, such as Turbinado, light brown or granulated sugar
1 cup (240 ml) buttermilk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup (75 grams) rolled oats
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (60 grams) whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, which I replaced with 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, which I replaced with 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (120 grams) toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (85 grams) bittersweet chocolate chunks (optional)

Heat oven to 425°F. Butter a standard 12-cup muffin tin or line it with papers.*

Peel (if you so desire, can be skipped) pears, then halve and core them. Grate pears on the large holes of a boxed grater into a large bowl. You should have about 1 cup grated (although I ended up with 1 1/2, opting to meet the recipe halfway and used 1 1/4 cups). Stir in melted butter, sugar, buttermilk, eggs and vanilla until combined.

In a separate bowl, stir together the oats, flours, baking soda, baking powder, spices, salt, all but 1/2 cup coarsely chopped hazelnuts, and chocolate chunks, if you’re feeling extra indulgent. Gently fold this dry ingredient mixture into the wet batter until just combined; do not overmix.

Fill muffin cups almost up to the top and sprinkle with the reserved 1/2 cup hazelnuts. Place muffins in oven and immediately reduce the heat to 375°F. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of muffins comes out batter-free.

Cool muffins in pans for 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack. Muffins will keep for 2 days at room temperature in an airtight container.

* Unsolicited plug: Just bought these for the first time, which were wonderful at keeping the muffins from sticking to the paper.

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