Roasted Pears with Maple Syrup Caramel

The other day, I found myself in possession of a large amount of very ripe pears. These were the pears that were leftover from the women's retreat and which had traveled in a basket in the back of a bus from Vermont down to New York City, sustaining a few bumps and bruises along the way.

When I got home, I placed all the pears (about 8 of them) in a large zipped bag and popped them in the fridge to both delay the ripening and keep the fruit flies away from the juicy gashes it had picked up in travel.

My plan initially had been to make a pie or tart of some kind, but the truth is that, much to Eugene's chagrin, I hate making pie. I don't enjoy eating it (I'm a cake girl, all the way) and so I have little desire to invest the time in making the crust. I'd much rather just slice things up and throw them in the oven.

So that's what I did.

I quartered and cored the pears (didn't even bother peeling them, as usual) and nestled them all into a baking pan. In a separate bowl, I wisked together maple syrup, vanilla extract, melted butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and kosher salt, and then drizzled it all over the pears.

This went into an oven where I let them roast until tender. The maple syrup dressing created a kind of gooey caramel laced with just a hint of cinnamon and a touch of salt; absolutely perfect with the roasted pears!

Honestly, there is just something incredible and positively ambrosial that happens when pears combine with heat. I know some may disagree, but I think it's leagues beyond baked apples or really just about any other fruit.

I ate a few of these right out of the pan, then tossed the rest over a few scoops of tangy Greek yogurt. I had to stop myself from finishing the entire batch so that I could share with Eugene, who was also a fan. Later that night, I went back into the kitchen and attacked the pear-and-cinnamon scented caramel sauce that remained on the pan with a spoon. It had cooled and turned into a chewy, buttery, glorious treat practically worthy of its own post.

The next day while watching television Eugene randomly looked up and asked, "Any plans to roast some more pears today?"

Always the sign of a recipe well done.

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Roasted Pears with Maple Syrup Caramel
Serves 6

6 very ripe pears, quartered or cut into eighths (don't peel)
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup butter, melted
Juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 rounded teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter an 8" baking pan.

Arrange the quartered pears skin-side up on the buttered baking pan. In a separate bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, melted butter, lemon juice, vanilla, cinnamon, and kosher salt. Pour over the pears.

Place in the oven and roast for about 20 minutes. Remove pan from oven, use a spoon or tongs to flip the pears, then return to the oven for another 10 minutes.

Serve immediately while still hot over yogurt or vanilla ice cream. Also wonderful with cake or alongside cheese.

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