Sunday, November 4, 2012

Maple Pear Crisp

This time of year, it seems like apple-based desserts get all the love.  And, in a way, that just makes sense–it’s apple-picking season, and apple-picking goes along with visits to the pumpkin patch and all those other much-loved fall traditions.  You never hear about people going pear-picking in the fall.

But there’s a good reason for that.  You may have noticed that the pears at your local grocery store are green, not yellow.  Many people believe that’s so the pears, which are very firm when they’re green, will survive the trip to the grocery store undamaged.  (If you’ve ever held a ripe yellow pear in your hand, you know that avoiding any damage is a pretty difficult proposition.)  But the truth is, pears that are allowed to ripen on the tree turn mealy and start to spoil at the core.  That’s why pears are picked green–but not too green, or they won’t continue to ripen–and then allowed to finish their journey to maturity off the tree, at room temperature.

I can imagine that this also makes pear-picking a less appealing prospect than apple-picking.   For one thing, you wouldn’t be able to use the pears you’d picked for awhile.   You certainly wouldn’t be able to eat a pear straight from the tree.  And what’s green enough, but not too green?  I wouldn’t know how to tell, and that’s probably the case for most people who buy their pears at the grocery store.

Still, in spite of their complex development process, pears are one of my favorite fall fruits, and pear crisp is one of my favorite fall desserts.  I wouldn’t turn down a dish of apple crisp, but pear crisp is something a little more unusual.  Add another of my favorite fall flavors–maple syrup–and you have something really unique and delicious.

Although I didn’t put any nuts in the topping (since, as I’ve mentioned many times, the Foodie children are uniformly anti-nut), you could easily add half a cup of chopped pecans or walnuts to the the topping mixture for a little more texture.  Top your baked crisp with a scoop of ice cream (vanilla, cinnamon, or even dulce de leche would be terrific) or a dollop of whipped cream and it goes from being simple and homey comfort food to being an indulgence.

But, since it’s basically fruit and oats, Maple Pear Crisp also works as a special treat for brunch–if you serve it in smaller portions,without the topping.  The Hubs and I noshed on Maple Pear Crisp just this morning.   I can’t think of a tastier way to start a bright fall day.

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Maple Pear Crisp

Ingredients:

For the filling:
5 cups peeled, chopped pears (about 3 large pears)
2 T. maple syrup
1 T. corn starch
1 tsp. cinnamon

For the topping:
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup oats
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
4 T. butter, cold, cut into chunks

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8 x 8 inch baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, toss the pears with the maple syrup, corn starch, and cinnamon. Stir well to coat the fruit with the other ingredients. Turn this mixture into the prepared baking pan and set it aside.

In a clean bowl, stir together the flour, oats, and brown sugar. Add the cinnamon and nutmeg; stir again to distribute the spices. Add the chunks of butter to the dry mixture and use a fork or a pastry cutter to work the butter in. Stop when you have a mixture that clumps into pea-sized pieces.

Sprinkle the topping evenly over the fruit. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the topping is crisp and golden brown. Cool slightly before serving, to allow the fruit filling to thicken.

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