Thursday, March 28, 2013

Velvety Roasted Pears

I could have just as easily called this entry "Ridiculously Simple Roasted Pears" or "When Bad Produce Happens to Good People - Pears." All titles would be fair and accurate. The pears are velvety; the method of preparation is time consuming, but is embarrassingly simple; and roasting is a great answer for the problem of under-ripe, mealy and withered pears - the kind of pears you might already possess.

For eating out of hand, my favorite varieties of pear are  seckel and comice, though I find forellle the most beautiful. Over the years I've tried almost every kind of pear I could find, including yellow and red bartletts (by far the most popular varieties in the US), bosc, and others. For roasting, however, my favorite pear variety is the anjou (or d'Anjou). 

I seldom buy anjou for any purpose other than roasting because typically anjou pears are simply not as juicy and tasty and comices, seckels and (next tier in my personal pear Olympics), boscs. 

Often the anjous - and other pears - are sold rock hard. Unlike other fruit, pears ripen after being picked from the tree. You can hasten ripening by putting them in a bag with a ripe banana or apple, which will give off ethylene gas and promote the pears' own ripening process.

Sometimes, of course, pears pass from rock hard/under-ripe to withered/mealy without passing through the Zone of Lusciousness. Have no fear! Roasting will make pears at either end of the ripeness spectrum as lush and sweet as you might hope. Perfect for the pears that feel like baseballs and for the bag you forgot in the back of the fridge.

Here's what you'll need for the Ridiculously Simple ingredient list: Pears, raisins, cinnamon and water.

Even more Ridiculously Simple is what you won't need: butter, sugar, wine or a peeler.

You will, however, need lots of this: baking time.


1) Preheat your oven to 400 degrees

2) Select a baking dish. I like to use glass baking dishes, but you could also use rimmed metal baking trays. The pears will give off syrup, so think in advance of clean-up and scrubbing. You could line the trays with aluminum foil, but I caution you that things could get a bit sticky. Choose a dish large enough to fit the pears you intend to use, or use the number of pears for which you have a dish. For example, I fit 8 pear halves (4 pears, I hope I don't need to say) on the oblong 4 qt. baking dish in the photo below. Any shape of dish - square, rectangular, oval, etc. - is potentially fine to use. You could also use a combination of dishes as I typically do.

3) Sprinkle your baking dish with ground cinnamon. I loooooove cinnamon (to quote a friend from Yorkshire), so I use a heavy hand - maybe "shovel" would be a better word choice than "sprinkle."

Enough cinnamon?

4) Slice the pears in half. Using a small spoon - a demitasse spoon is good if you hail from a more genteel era and have one - dig out the pear's seed pod.

5) Stuff the cavity with 4-5 raisins, or as many fit comfortably.

What manner of jewel have I in my navel?

6) Place the pears raisin-side down on the cinnamony dish. Pour about a half inch of water on the whole shebang. 

A relaxing cinnamon bath

7) Here's the hard part: believing how long you need to keep the pears in the oven. The baking time is well over an hour, closer to 2 hours. Every 20 minutes or so you'll need to add some water to the roasting pan. Your goal is to keep the pears from scorching. You do, however, want to get them good and roasted! This is the key to the velvety texture mentioned in the title. I've mentioned elsewhere about the unreliability of my oven temperature. Perhaps my 400 is really 375. No matter. Keep an eye on both the clock and the water level.

8) You think they're done now? Go back and give them another 20 minutes.

Here's what you're looking for. Burnt? Overdone? No way. Think deep, caramelized flavors.

What you're looking for - even if you don't know it

9) Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool a bit. Carefully remove the pears using a spatula. Add a small amount of water to loosen the pears if necessary. After cooling, pears can be frozen if you're not going to use them right away.

Just chillin'

Wasn’t that Ridiculously Simple? No hassle of peeling the pairs. No need for sugar, wine, butter, etc. to replace the flavor that you never took away. On the contrary, you intensified and enriched the flavor! No worries that your peeled pears look a little lopsided or some of the pears got more of a flavor injection (from the wine-sugar) than did the other side, and now you have to come up with a way to balance the flavors.

Here they are in all their velvety glory. 

I like them just as is, but feel free to add ice cream, crème fraiche or Greek yogurt or use the pears as a topping for pound cake or sliced over pancakes or French toast. As one friend’s child marveled, “This really counts as a fruit, and not as a yummy dessert? Really?”

Really. And only you need to know how Ridiculously Simple these velvety roasted pears were to make.


  1. Wasn't it the dessert you brought for the potluck dinner at school? I devoured it (actually, devoured them, plural). Now I got the recipe -- thanks!!

  2. Those were indeed the pears! Glad you enjoyed them.

  3. This was sooo fabulous! Do you think this would work for apples that are heading off crisp as well?

    1. Glad you liked them! This technique actually doesn't work well for apples - it turns them into goo. I recommend 3 options for apples heading off to the sunset: applesauce, baked apple or apple chips.