A favorite fall and winter fruit, pears are enjoyed for their juicy, sweet flavor and tender texture.
Anjou pears come in a variety of fall colors, from light green to yellow-green to red. Anjou pears, with their squat shape, are firm and have a mealy texture. They are juicy with a sweet-spicy flavor. These pears do not change color upon ripening. Eat fresh or use in salads and desserts.
Asian pears have a less traditional pear shape and more of an apple shape. They are firm and juicy with an apple-pear flavor. These pears, also known as Chinese pears and apple pears, have a crunchy texture. Eat fresh or use in salads or for baking.
Bartlett pears are all-purpose pears with the classic pear shape. They are smooth with green skins that turn buttery yellow when ripe. Bartletts can also be red but they do not change color with ripening. When ripe, Bartlett pears have a juicy, sweet flavor and a pleasant aroma. Excellent for eating fresh and using in salads and desserts.
Bosc pears have a slender shape with a longer top and a long, thin stem. They have a mottled tan-gold color with a subtle nutty flavor and buttery texture. Use for baking and poaching, as well as for eating fresh.
Comice pears are short and squat with a greenish yellow color and red blush when ripe. Their sweet, juicy flesh and buttery texture make them best for eating fresh.
Forelle pears are small with a bell shape. Green before ripening, these pears turn a golden yellow with a red blush when ripe. Sweet and juicy, Forelle pears are great eaten fresh or for salads and desserts.
Seckel pears are petite red or red and green pears. Sometimes even small enough to be bite-size, these tiny pears have a sweet flavor that makes them ideal for snacking or using in appetizers and desserts.
All about pears:
Look for firm or hard unripe pears with no bruises or cuts and with stems that are in place. Pears are one of a handful of fruits that are actually better if ripened after picking and it’s better to ripen pears at home rather than purchasing them ripe.
Store hard, unripe pears in a paper bag or in a covered fruit bowl at room temperature. Check daily for ripeness. You can also refrigerate unripe pears until you are ready to ripen them; then keep at room temperature. You cannot test ripeness by color because some varieties will not change color after picking. To check for ripeness of a pear, gently press the stem end of the pear with your thumb, If it yields to pressure, it’s ripe. To keep ripe pears longer, refrigerate them 3 to 5 days after ripening.
To prepare pears for cooking, use a vegetable peeler to remove the thin skin. To halve pears, cut in half lengthwise and remove the core with a small knife or melon baller. If you want to poach pears or stuff whole pears, use a melon baller to remove the core from the bottom of the pear, leaving the pear intact. Brush sliced pears that will not be immediately eaten with a little lemon juice to prevent browning. A medium pear will give you about 1 cup sliced.
Pears are healthy with only 100 calories each and a low glycemic index (meaning the carbohydrates in pears convert slowly to sugar). A medium pear (about the size of an adult fist) is a good source of dietary fiber, providing 16% of the recommended daily allowance. Pears are a good source of Vitamin C. This antioxidant promotes healing and boosts the immune system. Pears are a good source of potassium, an important mineral in heart health, nerve and muscle function.
A crostata is an Italian baked tart. It has been known by various names throughout Italy, including coppi in Naples and sfogliate in Lombardy.
If you don’t have a food processor, you can use the paddle attachment of an electric mixer, a pastry cutter or two forks to cut the cold butter into the cornmeal-flour mixture. Make sure that you choose a fine grade of cornmeal or polenta (not a coarse brand) for best results. And, you can make the pastry ahead, store it in the refrigerator, sealed in a plastic bag, for up to a week. Let it warm up before rolling it out.
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 3/4 cup fine cornmeal or polenta
- 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 large egg
- 1/3 cup water
- 2 1/2 pounds ripe pears (any kind, or a mixture)
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons Amaretto Liqueur
- 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
- Dash of salt
To make the pastry:
Combine the walnuts, cornmeal, flour, sugar and salt in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until the walnuts are ground into a coarse meal. Pour the olive oil on top of the dry ingredients in the food processor.
Run the machine in a few long pulses, until the oil is evenly distributed and the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the egg and pulse once or twice—just until it is incorporated—then pulse in enough water to bring the dough together. Remove the dough from the food processor, gather it together and knead lightly into one ball.
Break the dough into two pieces, approximately 2/3 and 1/3. Form each piece into a ball and flatten each ball into a thick disk. On a lightly floured surface, roll the larger piece of dough into a 13-inch circle, about 1/8-inch thick. Ease it into a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom and trim the edges.
Roll out the smaller disc into a 10 inch circle and cut into strips about 1/2-inch wide. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375°F.
To make the filling:
Peel the fruit and cut it into thin slices Transfer the slices to a medium-sized bowl and drizzle with the lemon juice and amaretto. Sprinkle with the flour and salt and toss to coat.
Spread the fruit into the crust. Arrange the strips of dough on top in a criss-cross pattern, then push the ends of the strips into the edges of the bottom crust to hold them in place. (You might need to wet them a little to make them stick.)
Place the filled tart on a baking pan and bake in the lower half of the oven for about 45 minutes, or until golden on the top and around the edges.
Cool for at least 15 minutes before removing the rim of the pan and serving the tart. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Italian Pear Cake
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 cup thinly sliced peeled pear
- 8 pecan halves
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup butter, softened
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/3 cup low-fat sour cream
- 1/2 cup low-fat milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Place butter in a 9-inch round cake pan; place the pan in the oven until the butter melts. Remove pan from oven.
Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over the bottom of the pan. Arrange pear slices and pecan halves in a decorative pattern over the sugar. Set aside.
Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Beat sugar, butter, egg and extracts with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add sour cream and half of flour mixture; beat well. Add remaining flour mixture and milk; beat well. Pour batter over pear slices, spreading gently.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack 5 minutes.
Run a sharp knife around edge of pan to loosen cake. Place a serving plate upside-down over pan; invert cake onto serving plate. Serve warm or cool completely.
Coconut-Streusel Pear Pie
Refrigerated Pastry for single-crust pie (9 inches)
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 6 cups sliced peeled fresh pears
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 4 teaspoons cold butter
- 1/3 cup flaked coconut
Line a 9-inch pie plate with pastry; trim and flute edges. Heat oven to at 400° F.
In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, flour and salt. Add pears and lemon juice. Cook and stir over medium heat for 4-5 minutes or until thickened. Pour into pastry.
For topping, in a small bowl, combine sugar and flour. Cut in butter until crumbly. Stir in coconut; sprinkle over top.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until filling is bubbly and topping is lightly browned.
Cool on a wire rack. Yield: 8 servings.
Red Wine Oven Poached Pears
- 4-6 peeled, cored pears (recommend Bosc or Anjou)
- 2-3 cups of red wine (recommend Zinfandel or Merlot)
- 3/4 cups of granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons of lemon juice (can also add lemon zest, if desired)
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
Combine 2 cups of the wine and all the remaining ingredients, except the pears, in an ovenproof deep pan that will hold the pears snugly and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Peel the pears but leave the stems on and remove the core from the bottom. Place the pears upright in the pan with the wine mixture. The pears should be covered by the liquid, if not add the remaining cup of wine.
Bring the wine mixture to a simmer on the stovetop and, then, place the pan in the oven.
Bake for 1 hour, basting every 15 minutes. The pears should darken to a rich mahogany color as they cook.
When the pears are done (still firm but easily pierced with a fork), remove them from the oven.
The liquid in the baking dish should be syrupy. If you would like the sauce thicker, remove the pears to a serving bowl and cook the wine mixture until it is reduced, slightly thick.
Place the pears in individual serving bowls and cover with syrup. Serve with either sweetened mascarpone cheese, crème fraiche or whipped cream.
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