Whenever I share one of my baked goods, at least one person proceeds to tell me, “I love to cook, but I’m terrible at baking,” or, “baking mystifies me.” It’s a somewhat rational fear. Did I already add the baking soda, or was it baking powder? Tablespoon or tea?
Not only is a failed baking endeavor disappointing, but it leaves a sweet tooth yearning bitterly. Nonetheless, my advice for those mulling over the plunge, just pick a recipe and try it! After all, what’s a good gathering without a dessert course?
However, if the idea of baking still leaves you in a cold sweat, these pears are a simple solution. Filled with cranberries, blue cheese and walnuts, these roasted pears will impress more than a traditional cheese plate but with far less stress than a pear tarte tartin. Make this simple dessert once, and soon you’ll have the confidence to experiment further with the ingredients. Try a different nut or a sweeter cheese paired with a balsamic reduction or chocolate wine sauce. Dive in!
To truly impress with these pears, curate the cocktail pairing at your gathering as well. Distilled from the delicately complicated artichoke and other herbs, Cynar is the perfect counterpart. This Italian digestif/aperitif is on the bitter side of the spectrum though softer than its counterparts such as Campari. Additionally, Cynar contains cynarin, a chemical compound found in artichokes that inhibits taste receptors, making water (and other foods and drinks) seem sweeter. See if your guests can discern a difference as you conclude the night ever so sweetly.
3-4 ripe but firm Anjou pears
Freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 3 lemons)
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup walnut halves, toasted and chopped
½ cup apple cider
3 tablespoons port
1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
3 ounces coarsely crumbled sharp blue cheese, such as Stilton
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Rinse the pears, and slice them lengthwise into halves. With a small sharp paring knife and a melon baller, carefully remove the core and seeds from each pear, leaving a round well for the filling.
Toss the pears with lemon juice to prevent them from turning brown. Arrange them, core side up, in a baking dish large enough to hold the pears snugly.
Divide the cranberries and walnuts amongst the pears, mounding it on top of the indentations.
In a small bowl, combine the apple cider, port, and brown sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Pour the mixture over and around the pears.
Bake the pears, basting occasionally with the cider mixture, for 30 minutes, or until tender. Set aside until warm or at room temperature.
Just before serving, add blue cheese crumbles to each mound.
To Serve the Cynar: Cynar can be taken a neat or over ice, or as a cocktail. For this pairing, I chose to combine Cynar with a splash of soda water. If you’re feeling extra fancy, add a curl of citrus.