Baked Pear Aromatherapy

The house smells like one of those potpourri candles – but in a good way. I’ve just pulled baked pears, enrobed in an almond streusel, from the oven, and the aromas are positively dreamy.

Streuseled pears getting ready for the oven. (Kim O'Donnel).

Think of this as a take on fruit crisp, with more emphasis on fruit than crisp, but with a little more pizzazz. As much as I love spooning into a tray of fruit crisp, it lacks structure and has a face only a mother can love. A roasted pear, on the other hand, stands tall and pretty, full of grace, streusel-y perfume -- and yes, plenty of fruit.

The recipe, which comes from Bay area pastry chef Emily Luchetti, can easily be tweaked to suit personal preferences. Almonds, for instance, could easily be replaced with walnuts, and if you want to use dairy-free “butter” (I’m thinking Earth Balance spread), go right ahead. I also think the vanilla whipped cream is optional, particularly if you want to lower the dairy fat quotient.

One more thing: The pears may require more cooking time than is suggested in the recipe; do the paring knife test and make sure it’s tender enough before serving. Everyone will happier when those pears are spoon-soft.

Baked Pears
Adapted from “A Passion for Desserts” by Emily Luchetti
(KOD recipe notes in italics)

4 firm yet ripe (preferably Bartlett) pears (this is important: if pear is too hard, the core won’t easily give way; harder pears also take longer to cook)
Almond streusel:
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour (I used spelt flour with great results)
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) cold, unsalted butter, cut into one-inch pieces
3 ounces (3/4 cup) unsalted whole almonds, toasted

¼ vanilla bean or ¼ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 ½ cups heavy (whipping) cream
3 tablespoons granulated sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Peel pears. Core them from the bottom, leaving pears whole. (Try an apple corer, a paring knife or a narrow vegetable peeler.)

Place pears, standing up, in an ovenproof baking dish. If pears won’t sit upright, slice a thin piece off bottom.

In a food processor, combine sugars, salt and flour, using pulse function. Add butter and almonds, pulsing until mixture looks darker and starts to come together.

Using your hands, press streusel all over each pear, completely covering (but don’t worry if streusel comes off, as you can re-upholster after baking and before serving). Bake pears until streusel is golden brown, about 25 minutes. (I would add, until a paring knife easily pierces the pear. You want pears to be tender, and depending on ripeness of fruit, this could take up to an hour.)

While pears are baking, prepare cream (A totally optional step, in my opinion).

If using the vanilla bean, slice it in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Place seeds or vanilla bean paste in a mixing bowl with cream and granulated sugar. With a whisk, whip cream until thickened but still pourable.

To serve: Spoon cream in bottom of serving bowl. Place warm pear in middle of each bowl and spoon any remaining streusel around pears. Serve immediately.

Makes four servings.

Streusel can be made a day in advance and kept refrigerated. Pears can be baked earlier in the day and reheated in a preheated 350-degreee oven for 10 minutes. Cream can be made a few hours in advance.

By Kim ODonnel |  October 10, 2008; 11:00 AM ET Autumn Classics , Baking
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I love Emily Luchetti's recipes! I have her cookbook, but have not tried this one. Now I know what I'm having for Sunday dessert - great alternative to poached pears. Don't you love how "A Passion..." is organized by seasons? I remember last year you posted a lighter version of her pumpkin/cranberry upside down cake. Have you tried her 3-chocolate cupcakes? They take forever, are ridiculously indulgent, but sooooo worth it. Awesome for grown-up parties.

Posted by: Jennifer | October 10, 2008 2:56 PM

Speaking of aroma therapy, rosemary does it for me. Potatoes in a pan with olive oil and rosemary.... Talk about an olfactory seduction into dinner. I love that. Although, in my experience, not everyone does.

Posted by: Dave | October 11, 2008 10:06 AM

wow, that streusel looks amazing!

Posted by: aissa galoso | October 12, 2008 10:34 PM

Just once, I'd like to read someone's comments about the subject at hand. I've read her book, and while yes it is an outstanding book, this is about the dessert. It's not about someone else's "aromatherapy", or another of her desserts, sorry. In addition, the phot included isn't that good of a reference into wether the dessert is "amazing", at least not in my opinion.

Posted by: frank | October 14, 2008 12:16 AM

Frank: You may suffer from a condition called idiocy. And by the way, your comment was just as off-topic as the others. But it's great you feel inspired to critique everyone's comments. Way to go buddy, it keeps you from real-life interactions, which I'm sure is a favor to humanity at large.

Posted by: Sue | October 17, 2008 7:52 AM

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