Thursday, December 6, 2007

pear crisps with vanilla brown butter

vanilla brown butter pear crisp

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?

It’s probably not going to help when I tell you the following:

Brown Butter

almondsvanilla brown butter pear crisp

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 crispy “crispy.” The vanilla bean and brown butter made it extra-prosh. The pears always wanted to be baked, anyway.

But really, I already told you everything you need to know:

Vanilla. Brown Butter. Pear. Crisp.

vanilla brown butter pear crisp

My work here is done.

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

Eager for NYC Area Volunteers: God’s Love We Deliver is a metropolitan area non-profit which delivers free, nutritious meals to 1,600 men, women and children living with HIV/AIDS, cancer, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s Disease and other life altering illnesses in NYC’s five boroughs and Hudson County, NJ. They contacted me and asked me to let my readers know that they are eagerly looking for volunteers to filling shifts in the kitchen, with both before and after-work hours, and van assistants, to help their van drivers deliver food to clients. Call (212) 294-8104 or email them at [email protected] to volunteer.

Pear Crisps with Vanilla Brown Butter
Adapted from Gourmet, October 2007

Makes 6 servings

For topping
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole almonds with skin
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For filling
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
3 lb firm-ripe Anjou or Bartlett pears (about 6), peeled and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons pear brandy or eau-de-vie

Equipment: 6 (8-ounce) gratin dishes or shallow ramekins

Make topping: Pulse together flour, almonds, brown sugar, and salt in a food processor until nuts are finely chopped. Add butter and pulse just until blended. Coarsely crumble in a shallow baking pan and chill at least 1 hour.

Make filling and bake crisps: Preheat oven to 425°F with rack in middle.

Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into a small heavy saucepan, then add pod and butter and cook over medium-low heat, swirling pan occasionally, until butter is browned and fragrant, about 4 minutes.

While butter browns, stir together sugars, flour, and a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Add pears and brandy and toss to combine.

Discard vanilla pod, then toss butter with pear mixture. Spoon filling into gratin dishes and sprinkle with topping, mounding it slightly in centers. Put in a shallow baking pan and bake 30 minutes, then rotate baking sheet and bake until topping is golden brown and filling is bubbling, 10 to 15 minutes more. Cool to warm or room temperature on a rack.

Do ahead: The topping can made in advance, chilled and covered for up to two days. The crisps can be assembled (but not baked) 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring them room temperature before baking.


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