Honey and Butter Baked Pears with Cream

For those of you (like me) who don’t rank pears up there as one of your favorite fruits or would rather go hungry than eat one, hang in here. But for those of you who love pears, consider this to be your lucky day. For those of you (like me) who have never understood how a bowl of fruit served at the end of a great meal comes even close to qualifying as a dessert, stay with me. But for those of you who discovered the sumptuousness of a fruit dessert years ago, add me to the list of those who envy your food genius.

Yes, I am fully aware we are entering the holiday season. Otherwise known as the weeks of overindulgence, a rationalized eating and drinking bender, and the over-consumption of all foods rich or sweet. So why in the midst of this seasonal food orgy would I even try to convince you to serve a fruit dessert at any one of the dinner parties you will be having in the weeks ahead?  No, contrary to the opinion of a few or for sure at least one, I have not yet lost my senses. Rather I have finally wised up. This newly found, better late than never, wisdom came after taking a single bite of these Honey and Butter Baked Pears with Cream.

This recipe came from one of Denmark’s most respected chefs, restauranteurs, and cookbook authors Paul Cunningham. The simplicity of this baked pear dessert is rivaled only by the complexity of its’ flavors. Butter, honey, fresh thyme, bay leaves, and some (sea or kosher) salt, and oh let’s not forget the little more than a splash of heavy cream, turn anjou pears into a dessert worthy of going on my last meal list. 

Slow roasting the pears at a relatively high temperature caramelizes and causes them to become more deeply flavorful than you think is possible. They ascend to a level of flavorfulness reserved only for those best kind of unexpected surprises. 

There are at least ten kinds of pears, but for this dessert the anjou pear works best as it one holding up well in the baking or roasting process. I used a Green Anjou pear, however, you could also use its’ red cousin, the Red Anjou even though there is a slight difference between the two of them. The Red Anjou has been described as being slightly sweeter, milder, and having with hints of sweet spice. However, the citrus notes in the Green Anjou may better compliment the thyme and bay leaves.

While shopping for the pears I came across a slightly smaller version of the Green Anjou Pear. Instead of using eight regular sized Anjou pears, I ended up using eleven of the smaller ones. Coring the pears after they have been peeled and halved lengthwise helps them to retain their beautiful shape. Using a melon baller makes this easier, but a small teaspoon would work as well.

After placing the pears on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, each half is filled with butter, lightly seasoned with salt (I used sea salt), and sprinkled with fresh thyme leaves. Instead of using fresh bay leaves, I used dried ones. By keeping them whole and simply laying over the pear halves, the butter and honey will absorb their flavor.

Drizzle all of the pears with the honey before placing them in a preheated 400 degree (F) oven. The recipe called for a half-cup of honey, however, 1/3 cup seemed to work well. To compliment the citrus notes of the Green Anjou pears I used an Orange Blossom Honey. 

Pure magic happens in the hour these pears roast in the oven. The subtle flavors of the thyme, bay leaves, and honey are infused into the pears as they caramelize. Turning the pears every fifteen (15) minutes helps to ensure their even caramelization. The baking time for the smaller sized pears was an hour exactly. Which means it may take slightly longer for regular sized pears to become tender. 
The sheer beauty of this dessert is merely a prelude to what your palate will experience. Meant to be served as soon as or shortly after the pears come out of the oven, the taste of the warm pears served with heavy cream is nothing short of pure bliss, a most elegant end to any meal. My perception of fruit desserts has now (or should I say finally) undergone a significant paradigm shift. And all it took was a bite of these Honey and Butter Baked Pears with Cream.

I am feeling compelled to get on a plane to Amsterdam and personally thank Paul Cunningham for generously sharing this recipe. But then I would give some of you cause to believe I truly have taken leave of my senses. Deliriousness has a way of fostering impulsive, irrational thoughts.

With pears now in season, it could not be the more perfect time of the year to make this dessert. As hectic as the holidays can sometimes be (at least in my world), a relatively simple to make dessert may be the best gift you can give to yourself. And if you are looking for a perfect end to a dinner with friends, the Honey and Butter Baked Pears with Cream should make it memorable.

Honey and Butter Baked Pears with Cream (inspired by chef Paul Cunningham‘s recipe as shared in the December 2015 issue of Saveur magazine)

11 small or 8 regular sized (green or red) Anjou pears, peeled, halved and cored
8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes to evenly distribute amongst pear halves
Sea salt or kosher salt
5 sprigs of thyme, plus more for garnishing
2 bay leaves (dried or fresh)
1/3 – 1/2 cup Orange Blossom Honey (recommend Savannah Bee’s Orange Blossom Honey)
Heavy whipping cream (18-19% fat content), chilled creme fraiche, or double cream

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees (F). Line a large 12’x17′ or 12’x18′ rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
2. Arrange pears cut-side up in a single layer. Top each pear half with butter and season lightly with salt.
3. Scatter thyme leaves evenly over the pear halves. Lay the bay leaves over the pears. 
4. Drizzle pears with honey.
5. Bake pears, turning every 15 minutes to coat in butter and honey. Bake until pears are tender and have caramelized (approximately 1 hour for the smaller pears. Baking time for regular sized pears may be slightly longer.)
6. Transfer baked pears to serving dish and/or place 3-4 pours in small bowls. Pour about a tablespoon of cream in each bowl. Garnish with a small spring of thyme. Serve immediately.
Notes: (1) This dessert is recommended to be served hot out of the oven. However, if there are any leftover pears, you can reheat in the microwave before serving again. (2) When lining the baking pan with parchment paper, ensure paper comes up along sides of pan as the butter and honey will seep under the paper. Not only will you lose some of that deliciousness, but it makes for a messier clean-up.

“Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.” Henry Van Dyke

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