'Tis the season for cookies, and lately I've felt so bombarded by different shapes, sizes, flavors, and varieties, it's hard to focus on much else. Ok, obviously I've still found time for applesauce cake and gingersnap pear cranberry crisp. But what I'm trying to say is, there have also been cookies. Lots and lots of cookies. An embarrassing number, some of you would think (if I were willing to estimate my personal intake, which I am not).
I find it difficult to forgo cakes and cookies for lower-key desserts year-round, and this time of year, it's especially hard. But last week, after fiddling with the "surprise me" function on Deb's blog, I stumbled on a recipe for roasted pears that caught this cookie-loving lady's attention. The pears looked like they were melting into the baking dish, coated with a syrup of vanilla beans, sugar, and lemon. I wanted to scoop them right out of the screen.
I'd planned to make Deb's recipe just as she wrote it, but my tweaking tendencies got the best of me. I had some maple syrup from a farmer who sells stuff on my corner, and I'd been itching to use it with the pears that sat, somewhat forlorn, in my fridge for just a few days too long. So I did, swapping in maple for the sugar. I kept the lemon - the acidity proves absolutely critical in a dish that's otherwise quite sweet - and I added a piece of cinnamon along with the vanilla bean. The pears, they tasted of pure fall. Which is somewhat ironic, since I think it's officially winter at this point. Ahh, well.
Deb hits the nail on the head about these pears. They're easy as hell to make, and they'll impress dinner guests as much as if you'd slaved over this instead. Not that I don't love towers of salted caramel and chocolate, because I do. Of course I do. But when the holidays roll around, time is of the essence. So you choose.
Incidentally, these pears are just wild with a scoop of the cinnamon-vanilla ice cream I made this week. Follow this recipe, but skip the chocolate drizzle, add a cinnamon stick to the milk along with the vanilla bean, and let the whole thing steep for 30 minutes before proceeding with the recipe. Divine.
Also: I had only 4 pears, but the sauce makes enough for 1.5 lbs. pears, which should be about 6.
1 1/2 pounds pears (about 6), peeled, halved (though the stem, if possible), and cored (I use a little melon baller to scoop out the seeds and a paring knife to carve out the internal stem) 1/4 cup maple syrup 1/2 vanilla bean 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 2 tablespoons lemon juice 2 tablespoons water 2 tablespoons butter
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F for unripe pears, 350 degrees F for ripe ones.
Arrange pear halves cut-side up in a baking dish: 4 pears fit in an 8x8, 6 will need a 9x13.
Slit the vanilla bean in half and using a small paring knife, scrape the seeds from the bean into a small bowl. Add maple syrup, cinnamon, lemon juice, and water, stir to combine, and pour evenly over pears. Cut the vanilla pod halves into slivers, and distribute evenly in the baking dish. Dot each pear with butter.
Roast the pears for 30 minutes, basting them occasionally with pan juices. Turn the pears over and continue roasting, basting a couple more times, for 25 minutes, until a knife inserted into a pear half meets no resistance.
Serve pears warm, drizzled with the remaining sauce and topped with either a dollop of creme fraiche or a scoop of ice cream (vanilla, cinnamon, butter pecan, and sour cream ice cream would all work well here).