November 30, 2009

Pears and ginger

I'm sitting here with my laptop, eating a leftover piece of this pear crisp, warmed in the microwave, wondering what exactly to write about it. Instead of the usual apple pie (a version of which I've already made recently), we wanted something a little different in our Thanksgiving dessert line-up. This year's November issue of Bon Appetit provided that something different, in the form of an easy-to-make crisp. The crunchy topping has chopped crystallized ginger in it. I love crystallized ginger, love to eat it, love to bake with it -- that alone was reason enough for me to try this dish. Plus, pears are a favorite around here, mostly for snacking on, so we thought it would please most people (except for those who are die-hard fans of certain pies and won't be happy with anything else). Any way, it was a hit. Everyone who tried the crisp liked it. Only about half was leftover after everyone satisfied their appetites for dessert throughout the evening, which was a good sign, considering the number of other items to choose from, three pies and a cheesecake. Yeah, we had plenty of dessert that day. Apart from all of the food talk, Thanksgiving was fun and laid-back, aside from the flurry of food-prep on the preceding days, and we all had a good time together. I'm thankful for the family and friends I was able to share it with this year.


Now for the crisp -- if you like fruit desserts, this one's a keeper. Aside from chopping the almonds and peeling and slicing the pears, which are mostly time consuming, not difficult, this recipe pulls together very easily. Just mix up the topping, chill it in the fridge while preparing the pears, then spread the pear mixture in a fairly large baking dish, sprinkle the topping over, bake it, and enjoy. Adding lemon juice to the fruit keeps them from becoming cloyingly sweet, and the crystallized ginger adds a spicy zing, nicely contrasting with the soft pears and crunchy almonds. These three ingredients each come together to create a well-rounded dessert. However, I would imagine that a scoop of vanilla ice cream might make this even better, but it was pretty darn good on its own.

Make sure that you use firm pears, as the softer variety will turn to mush in the oven. Bosc pears are an excellent choice for baking, as they're firm when ripe and retain their shape while baking.


Pear Crisp with Candied Ginger
Adapted from Bon App├ętit, November 2009

For topping:
½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
½ cup (packed) brown sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp fine sea salt
½ cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into ½-in. cubes
1 cup old-fashioned oats
½ cup coarsely chopped raw almonds
¼ cup ¼-in. cubes crystallized ginger
For filling:
½ granulated cup sugar
4 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
½ tsp cinnamong
¼ tsp fine sea salt
4 lb Bosc pears (about 8), peeled, cored, cut into ½-in. cubes
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

To make topping: Whisk together the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. Add butter and cut in with a pastry blender (or two knives) until moist clumps form. Stir in oats, almonds, and ginger. Chill while preparing filling.

To make filling: Preheat oven to 350° F. Whisk together the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Add pears and lemon juice and toss to coat. Transfer to a 13x9x2-inch oval baking dish (or rectangular). Sprinkle topping evenly over pear mixture, covering every last bit.

Bake until topping is crisp and golden brown and juices are bubbling, about 50 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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