A ripe pear is a beautiful thing. You can’t really improve on the experience of just eating the luscious thing with a napkin handy. We all know that.
But sometimes, maybe once a year, you might want to try something different. I’m not saying better, although I truly love this recipe–but different. I try to reserve a few perfect pears each year to bake, always stuffed with this sweet hazelnut butter.
The recipe comes from Deborah Madison’s Seasonal Fruit Desserts, not to be confused with Rustic Fruit Desserts, which I was lauding last week when I made my favorite Rhubarb Cake with Crystallized Ginger. (And I also have the fruit-heavy Chez Panisse Desserts book. This may be an unreasonable collection given that, in the end, my heart belongs to chocolate. But I digress.) I never have the hazelnut oil that the recipe calls for so I used walnut oil this time, and I didn’t have Frangelico so I used water. And even so, they were perfect: sweet and nutty, soft and crunchy, maybe even as good as a ripe pear alone.
One word of warning: wait for your pears to ripen before you bake them. They will be so much better. And this recipe is not the place to jettison your overripe pears, either; when your pears are past their prime, make this instead. Hazelnut Baked Pears: In a food processor, grind 3/4 c. toasted hazelnuts with 5 Tb. brown sugar or maple syrup and 1/8 tsp. salt until gritty. Add 1 1/2 Tb. soft butter and 1 1/2 Tb. hazelnut oil and pulse until a sticky mixture forms. Scoop into four halved and cored pears, and bake them in a dish with a splash of Frangelico or sweet wine or water at 350 for about 25 minutes, until the fruit is nice and soft. If there is liquid in the bottom of the pan, spoon it over the pears as you serve them.