Something I love about food is how it can transport you to a specific memory or keep you close to a certain person in your life, even when they are far away or no longer here.
Growing up, I have vivid memories of sleepovers at my Grandparent’s house. I’d stay up way past my bedtime, eating ice cream or other treats in front of the TV.
But most vividly I remember on Friday nights that my great Aunt Kathleen would come over so that my Grandma could set her hair in curlers. I loved my great Aunt Kathleen & Uncle Billy as they were so woven into our lives having lived right upstairs from my Grandparents. They also always had a big jar of candy in their home and whenever we visited they would invite us up, hand us a little sandwich bag and let us choose our favorites (mine were the strawberry bon bon hard candies with the soft center).
On those Friday nights though, my Aunt would almost always bring over a dish of baked pears. Covered in a sugar and cinnamon mixture the pears were so simple and yet filled the entire house with an inviting and comforting aroma. I’d wait while my Grandma finished setting the curlers, anxious to dig into the warm baked pears.
Thinking back on this memory, I wanted to create a dish that continued to celebrate the simple beauty of pears yet provide easy ways to make them perfect for a holiday dessert. I chose Forelle pears, a variety that is wonderful for snacking and to use in salads, because they are sweeter than other pear varieties and yet still hold their shape once cooked. And let’s talk about that Bourbon Whipped Cream, shall we? It’s the perfect, easy addition to take these baked pears from everyday to dinner party.
A few more notes about this recipe:
Substitutions: If you can’t find Forelle pears (or just are a grinch who can’t love their adorable size), you can use another good baking pear such as Bosc or D’Anjou which hold their shape well after being heated.
Adjustments: If you aren’t a big fan of Bourbon or want a kid-friendly treat, feel free to lower the ratio of Bourbon to cream or leave it out completely.
Equipment: While making whipped cream is super easy either with a handheld mixer or a stand mixer, if you don’t have either (or just want a little upper arm exercise), you can whip the cream in a mason jar. Just add all of the ingredients to a pint sized mason jar and shake! Keep shaking (and checking occasionally) until stiff peaks form - it will take about 3-4 minutes.
Did you know, December also happens to be #nationalpearmonth so it couldn’t be a more perfect time to try these out!
Baked Pears with Bourbon Whipped Cream
Time: 45 Minutes
For the Baked Pears
1 1/2 lbs. Forelle pears, sliced in half lengthwise, core and stems removed (see note)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons melted butter plus additional butter for greasing the pan
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon raw cane sugar or coconut sugar
1/4 cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped (see note)
For the Bourbon Whipped Cream
1/2 pint heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons Bourbon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a 9”x13” baking dish with butter and set aside. Place a metal bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer (if using) in the freezer (this will help make the whipped cream).
2. Place the trimmed pears in a large bowl and coat well with the lemon juice. In a small bowl, whisk together the melted butter, maple syrup, cinnamon and sea salt. Pour the butter and maple syrup mixture over the pears and toss to coat evenly.
3. Arrange the pears in the baking dish, cut side up. Pour any remaining liquid over the pears. Sprinkle the raw cane sugar or coconut sugar over the top of the pears.
4. Place the pears in the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until pears are tender yet still a little crisp when piercing with a fork or knife. Turn the broiler on high and plan the pan under the broiler for 3-5 minutes or until lightly caramelized on top.
5. Remove and let cool for 5 minutes while you prepare the Bourbon Whipped Cream.
6. Remove the metal bowl from the freezer and pour the heavy cream into it. Add the bourbon, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Using a hand mixer or the whisk attachment on your stand mixer, beat the cream until stiff peaks form.
7. Serve each pear with a dollop of whipped cream and some of the chopped walnuts.
To remove the core, I simply use a teaspoon to scoop out a circle around the seeds. Because these pears are so small, the stem should come right out.
To toast the walnuts, preheat the oven to 400F. Spread the walnuts on a baking tray and toast for 6-8 minutes, shaking occasionally to prevent them from burning. Let cool before chopping.